Amendment to the Motion

Part of Higher Education (Fee Limits and Student Support) (England) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 - Motion to Approve – in the House of Lords at 4:46 pm on 2nd July 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 4:46 pm, 2nd July 2020

My Lords, first, I offer the Green group’s support for the Motion in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, and I also wish to associate myself with the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin. “The next Windrush” is a phrase we sadly hear all too often, but the situation of young people who, through no fault of their own, suddenly find themselves unable to study, to progress, and to contribute to society in the way they wish to, is a tragedy. I hope we might get an answer today from the Government on some means to fix that.

On 7 January, I got a Written Answer from the noble Baroness, Lady Blackwood, to a Question about nursing, midwifery and associated health professional students, many of whom finished their courses early this year and went out into the NHS workforce to deal with the Covid situation. They are a year of students uniquely penalised by the lack of bursaries and fees: are the Government going to do something to help them? On 4 May, I received a Written Answer from the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, about students in that cohort who are unable to go out into the workforce, for whatever reason. What is happening so that they can finish their courses, because, often, practical training has not been available to them?

Finally, when we are talking about student fees, surely this is the time to rethink the whole approach. Education is a public good and it should be paid for from general progressive taxation—taxation that is far more progressive than it is now. Think about the current circumstances, with Covid-19. As the Government have acknowledged, we are going to see significant economic disruption and job disruption. Many people will be looking to retrain and perhaps to do another course, or a second or a third course. If the weight of debt stops them doing that, that will be damaging to our society and damaging to them. We really need to reconsider the whole issue of student fees.