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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:29 pm on 24th March 2011.

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Photo of Sharon Hodgson Sharon Hodgson Shadow Minister (Education) 4:29 pm, 24th March 2011

Not at the moment.

John Campbell from Washington e-mailed me yesterday. He currently receives £30 a week in EMA to support his studies. He asked me what support he would now get. I cannot answer, because Ministers have not told us yet, despite repeated hints from Simon Hughes. I share the disappointment that he will no doubt have felt yesterday. Students are making choices about their future now. How can they do so while this silence persists?

We heard that the Chancellor will lift the tax-free allowance by £630 in 2012. I am sure that those of my constituents who will be lucky enough still to have a job this time next year will be very grateful for the extra 92p a week they will get. Perhaps they could use it towards the increased prices of their weekly shopping and energy bills, or to offset their loss in tax credits or frozen child benefit. What this Chancellor gives with one hand, he takes away many more times over with the other.

I remember, as I am sure do my hon. Friends, the furore in 1999 when the Government of the day announced an increase in the state pension of 75p a week, which was widely decried as an insult, despite being part of a wider package of measures that included the introduction of the winter fuel allowance and free TV licences. I checked with the Library this morning and found that 75p in 1999 is equivalent to around £1.05 today, which is 14% higher than 92p. Using that reasoning, the Budget’s increase is an even bigger insult. Mr Willetts, who was shadow Minister for social security, asked my right hon. Friend Mr Darling at the time whether he felt guilty about cutting taxes for business at the same time as making such a derisory offer. I wonder whether the right hon. Member for Havant feels guilty today.