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Student support: restricted modification of repayment terms

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 21st November 2016.

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Photo of Jo Johnson Jo Johnson Minister of State (Department for Education) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education) 6:30 pm, 21st November 2016

The key terms and conditions are set out in legislation—it is the law that binds us—and are subject to the scrutiny and oversight of Parliament. FCA regulation is therefore unnecessary, as students are already protected. Our system allows the Government, through these subsidised loans, to make a conscious investment in the skills base of our country. I should have thought that Labour Members would welcome that.

New clause 5 would revoke the 2015 student support regulations. These regulations replaced maintenance grants with loans, which increased support for students on the lowest incomes by over 10%. Revoking these regulations would reduce the support available for students from some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds, while costing the taxpayer over £2.5 billion per year. Opposition scaremongering about this policy risks deterring students from attending university. The sustainable system that we have put in place has enabled us to remove the cap on student numbers and offer more support for living costs than ever before.

New clauses 6 and 10 would require the repayment threshold for all income-contingent student loans to increase in line with either earnings or prices. Loan repayments continue to be based on the ability to pay, and graduates earning less than £21,000 were not affected by the threshold freeze. Those who benefit from a university education are likely to go on to earn more than taxpayers who do not go to university, so it is only fair that graduates should contribute to the cost of their education. Uprating the repayment threshold for all income-contingent student loans, as new clause 6 proposes, would cost about £5 billion in the first year due to a reduction in the value of the loan book. Thereafter, it would increase the resource account and budgeting charge by about 7%.