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Education Maintenance Allowance

Part of Opposition Day — [9th allotted day] – in the House of Commons at 5:04 pm on 19th January 2011.

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Photo of John Cryer John Cryer Labour, Leyton and Wanstead 5:04 pm, 19th January 2011

There have been times this afternoon when, apart from losing the will to live while listening to speeches from Government Members, I thought I must have slipped through a glitch in the space-time continuum and landed on another planet. We have been told that, because £30 is too small an amount, we need to abolish EMA; and someone from a sedentary position on the Liberal Benches told us that because the Labour Government refused to extend school dinners, we should abolish EMA. I have heard many Liberal MPs speak. They in particular have an important decision to make, because when they talk about the 90% dead-weight they should worry not about offending us but about offending those people outside who are included in that 90%.

Last week, I was at a meeting with about 120 students from throughout Britain and Simon Hughes indicated clearly that if the Opposition motion was moderately worded and-as I think he phrased it-sufficiently friendly, he would consider going into the Lobby to vote with us. It will be interesting to see whether he does, because if he does not he will have misled those students last week and others at other meetings over the past few weeks. He has a consistent record of doing so, and I shall be interested to hear what he says when he returns to the Chamber.

I was under the impression that today's debate was about EMA, but according to the Secretary of State it is really about the economy, so let us get one or two facts straight. The real spark for the financial crisis was when BNP Paribas posted its figures on the north American market in autumn 2007. At that point, the British deficit was below 3% of GDP, which I mention because it is the figure in one of the convergence criteria written into the Maastricht treaty by Conservative Ministers, who at the time said that it was quite tight-but achievable. We achieved it year after year, as we did the 60% debt figure that is also in the criteria, but, after the events involving BNP Paribas, followed by Lehman Brothers and Northern Rock, the deficit had to mount because we had to intervene continually. That was the root of the financial crisis