Opposition Day — [16th Allotted Day] — Student Maintenance Grants

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:49 pm on 19th January 2016.

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Photo of Gordon Marsden Gordon Marsden Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Minister (Education) 1:49 pm, 19th January 2016

No, I will not give way at this stage, but I might a little later.

We know now, thanks to a question I tabled to the Minister for Universities and Science to establish the extent of this issue, how many people will be directly affected by the withdrawal of the maintenance grant in further education. That statistics show that some 33,700 English applicants were awarded maintenance grants for higher education courses at further education colleges.

Within that 33,700 figure, we have a roll call of the English regions, where it is not just the individuals, but the local economies, through the growth of skills there, that have benefited from this expansion of higher education and further education.

Let me cite some of the statistics that the Student Loans Company has produced: in the north-west, Blackburn College has 1,842 students on maintenance grant; in the north-east, Newcastle College Group has 1,669; and in the south-west and Cornwall, Cornwall College has 931. The list goes on, but a crucial subset comprises the numbers in those areas where, as I just mentioned to my hon. Friend Jack Dromey, the Government are encouraging combined authorities and local enterprise partnerships to take up their devolution offers and, therefore, potentially to have control of or take a role in higher skills initiatives. Greater Manchester has 410 on maintenance grants at Stockport College and 1,060 on grants across The Manchester College network. In Merseyside, 542 in total are on grants at The City of Liverpool College and the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts. In Leeds, 1,604 are on these grants, spread between Leeds City College, Leeds College of Music and Leeds College of Art. London has a huge further education sector, which caters to so many of the groups identified in the equalities assessment, as my right hon. Friend Mr Lammy said. At a time of pressure already, from area reviews and cuts to ESOL—English for speakers of other languages—this new proposal could be toxic. If the effect of these changes, introduced without consultation, is to blunt those skills and that empowerment, this Government will be cutting off at the knees the very strategies for English devolution, for skills and for social mobility that they claim to be promoting.