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Student Loans

Oral Answers to Questions — Business, Innovation and Skills – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 26th March 2015.

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Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Labour, Walsall South 9:30 am, 26th March 2015

What recent estimate he has made of the average level of indebtedness of people who have taken out student loans.

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Minister of State (Universities and Science), Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

A graduate with a student loan of £41,000 will expect to earn during their career, net of tax and student loan repayments, £200,000 more than a similar individual with two or more A-levels. That is why more young people than ever are choosing to go to university, with the biggest jump coming from people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Labour, Walsall South

The fact remains that young people will be leaving university with an unsecured debt of over £43,000. Does the Minister agree that this will place an intolerable strain on middle-income families?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Minister of State (Universities and Science), Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

No. In fact, the success of the Government’s policy reforms are reflected in the hon. Lady’s own constituency. In October 2009, 20.8% of young people in her constituency went to university, whereas this October it was 30.2%—nearly a 50% increase. What is extraordinary is that a day before the general election campaign begins, the Labour party has not worked out how to pay for its university policies. Labour’s chaos would plunge the successful policy that we have introduced into chaos—a very good reason not to have a Labour Government.

Photo of David Willetts David Willetts Conservative, Havant

Does my right hon. Friend agree that our higher education reforms have delivered more students, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, more funding for teaching in universities than ever before and have lowered the monthly repayments by graduates, which is the key sum that mortgage lenders take into account when people are trying to get started on the housing ladder?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Minister of State (Universities and Science), Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. I pay tribute, as the whole House should, to his work in achieving this transformation. This is a proud moment for him to leave the House, in a year in which more young people have been to university in this country than ever before as a result of the far-sighted policies that he championed in the House.

Photo of Nick Brown Nick Brown Labour, Newcastle upon Tyne East

Have the Government examined the case for lifting the cap on student fee contributions, perhaps just selectively? If so, what conclusions have they reached?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Minister of State (Universities and Science), Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

We are very happy with the policy. The questions to be answered should be answered by the Labour party, because there is a £600 million gap in its ability to pay for its university policy. No wonder the vice-chancellors are concerned about the chaos into which that policy would plunge our universities.

Photo of Adrian Bailey Adrian Bailey Chair, Business, Innovation and Skills Committee

As Chair of the Select Committee, I thank the Secretary of State and his team of Ministers, both current and past, for their unfailing willingness to appear before the Committee and be questioned on their policies. I also thank them for adopting so many of our recommendations, and hope that they will look again at those that they did not adopt.

According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, £12 million of the projected deficit from the non-repayment of student loans will be funded by the sale of the student loan book. Given the low rate of repayment of those loans and the low interest rate that they attract, what assessment has the Minister made of the incentive that may be needed to induce people to buy them?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Minister of State (Universities and Science), Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

Preparations are continuing for the sale of the loan book during the next Parliament, and it is right that they should. I acknowledge the work of the hon. Gentleman, as Chairman of the Select Committee, in scrutinising this and other aspects of business during the current Parliament, but he should, perhaps, reflect on the words of a prominent Labour business person—indeed, the only prominent Labour business person. John Mills, who is Labour’s biggest donor, said that the party’s university policy would destabilise British universities and disadvantage “working class children”. He also said that it would hurt Labour’s economic credibility.