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It is a pleasure, as always, to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. I rise to speak because I think that we have a chance to right a wrong. I hope that the whole Committee will indulge me and vote for our new clauses. I will speak to new clauses 8 and 15, and support new clauses 10, 11, 13 and 14, in the names of my hon. Friends the Members for Sheffield Central and for Ilford North, who will I am sure speak with their usual expertise and eloquence in due course.
New clause 8 would revoke the regulations that made the change from maintenance grants to maintenance loans, and would ensure that students from low and middle-income backgrounds can receive the maintenance grant again. The policy was first announced in the autumn statement by the then Chancellor, and was pushed through in a statutory instrument without the proper scrutiny of the whole House. It is right that we have the chance to scrutinise it here today. The power is in the Committee’s hands.
Far too many students feel that they have been ripped off by this Government—a feeling that, sadly, this Bill seems unlikely to change in its current form. First, the coalition Government trebled tuition fees, leaving students with some of the highest levels of debt in the developed world. They then froze the threshold at which students repay those debts, meaning that those on lower incomes will lose out yet again. Then, in one of the former Chancellor’s last great failures before leaving office, he abolished maintenance grants, replacing them with yet more loans and burdening young people with even more debt.