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Education Maintenance Allowance

Part of Opposition Day — [9th allotted day] – in the House of Commons at 4:38 pm on 19th January 2011.

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Photo of Lisa Nandy Lisa Nandy Labour, Wigan 4:38 pm, 19th January 2011

Apart from agreeing with my hon. Friend, I am also grateful to her for bringing me back to my point, which I had lost in my anger about the Government's decision. Shinea, the young person from Centrepoint, whom I urge Ministers to meet, is midway through her course, as are many young people in my constituency. I tell Ministers that the issue is pressing and needs to be resolved now. At Wigan and Leigh college, 75% of young people in their first year who get EMA say that they will have to drop out next year. I urge Ministers to make a decision and give clarity not only to those young people, but to the many who must decide now whether to go into further education and do not know whether they can afford it. Those young people said to me very clearly that they were told that if they worked hard and tried hard, they would get the EMA. They have kept their side of the bargain; they cannot understand why their Government will not keep their side.

I went to Winstanley college and talked to some young people who are very concerned about the issue, and about tuition fees and the abolition of the Aimhigher initiative-concerned not for themselves, but for the young people who come after them. They told me they felt that their Government were not only not trying to help them, but were actively putting barriers in their way. The last time I heard young people talk like that was when I was growing up in the '80s and '90s, when the Conservative Government left an entire generation of young people without hope. It was devastating, and the Government are about to create exactly the same thing all over again. The progress made in the past 13 years is unravelling before our eyes. I urge hon. Members, before they walk through the Lobby, to think about their part in that.

Finally, if colleagues will not be persuaded by the moral case, I ask them to be persuaded by the clear economic case. The EMA pumps millions into local economies, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies states clearly that the EMA is an investment in young people that will be recouped in the long term. It will pay for itself. It is precisely in such difficult economic times, with youth unemployment predicted to reach 1 million in the next few years, that we should be investing in our young people. We should be sending them the strong message that we value them, and that they matter to us.