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Education Maintenance Allowance

Part of Opposition Day — [9th allotted day] – in the House of Commons at 5:10 pm on 19th January 2011.

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Photo of Nadhim Zahawi Nadhim Zahawi Conservative, Stratford-on-Avon 5:10 pm, 19th January 2011

I thank the shadow Secretary of State, but let me quote him:

"Yes, they may spend some of it on food and even the occasional time out with friends... But part of being in a college means taking part in the whole life of a college, and why should we say to young people from the least well-off backgrounds, well, 'you can't have those things'."

That settles that one. We also know that almost 50% of students are in receipt of EMA. That fact demonstrates that it is not well targeted.

In my old profession, when the research has been done and there is evidence for a strategy, if one does not like the findings, one should not throw them away and go into denial about them. Several Opposition Members have trashed the research because it does not suit their argument. As well as saying that he hoped to pay for the EMA through a reduction in debt, the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath said that he would pay for it by scrapping post-16 child benefit. I wonder whether that will become Opposition policy.

The Government have demonstrated their commitment, as we heard clearly today, to invest in the young people of our country. They are investing £7 billion in a fairness premium designed to support young people of all ages. The introduction of the all-age careers service will improve the information, advice and guidance that the National Foundation for Educational Research said needed to be improved. The Government are continuing to invest in providing apprenticeships, and have committed to improving the apprenticeship package so that level 3-the A-level equivalent-becomes the level to achieve.

In government, tough choices have to be made. We on the Government Benches have made those tough choices. We have chosen to safeguard spending on the national health service and education. I urge the Opposition, if they want to have a constructive debate, also to safeguard the national health service and education.