I agree. There are many positive examples of universal free childcare in other European countries and I wonder whether that is the sort of measure we should be looking at, rather than just cutting back for cutting back’s sake.
Childcare is crucial, but so, too, is transport. Unfortunately, in the past fortnight the Government have announced that important rail projects are no longer going to go ahead, including electrification in the midlands, and they have dithered over the airport decision, perhaps because there is division in the top ranks of the Conservative party. Those sorts of decision need to be taken quickly, at the beginning of the Parliament, so that we give the right signals about getting on with investing in our infrastructure and in social mobility.
We know that young people will be negatively affected by this Budget, not just by the cuts to housing benefit and the reduction in working tax credits for younger families, but by the transition from university grants to loans. This does not specifically relate to the debate on this Bill, but we know that the background to the Bill is the situation young people face when coming out of university. I know of a student at London Metropolitan University who will come out with a £54,000 debt after three years of studying social care and will be virtually unable to pay that back over her working life. The good announcements on the employment and training levy are undermined by the university grants situation and the 24% projected cuts to further education, which we know provides the glue to bring together the crucial employment provisions.
I could not sit down in this Chamber without quickly mentioning housing, which, as we know, is crucial, and not only to a vibrant economy and not only in the social housing sector, which I have specialised in over the years. Affordable housing is also crucial to the workforce and to those who wish to rent in the private sector, given that in London and the south-east that sector is ridiculously expensive. A family with three children who wish to rent in Finsbury Park—not Chelsea, but Finsbury Park—would require a household income of £75,000 to do so. Indeed, the average age at which Londoners get on to the housing ladder is now closer to 40 than to 30. It is crucial that we address this situation in this Parliament so that we can address social mobility and productivity. Unless a young person has access to unlimited family funds for education and housing, they face, under this Government and with this Budget and this Finance Bill, a genuinely bleak future.