I spoke up for Cardiff students in the House of Commons today, during a debate on the UK Government’s plan to scrap student maintenance grants and replace them with loans.
Following the Tories’ attempts to push the changes through in a delegated legislation committee, bypassing full Parliamentary debate and scrutiny, Labour used one of its limited number of Opposition Days to hold a debate and vote on Tuesday 19th January.
Under the move, grants from thousands of students from poorer backgrounds would be scrapped, meaning poorer students would graduate from a 3-year course with roughly £53,000 of debt rather than the £40,000 most currently owe when they graduate. For medical students the figure will be nearer £100,000 of debt.
I spoke about my pride representing a University constituency and the adverse impact of the changes on the many thousands of English students who, unlike their Welsh counterparts, will be affected.
Today in Cardiff Central, there are Welsh students sitting next to English students in the same lecture, on the same course, at the same University, living in the same accommodation.
Thanks to the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, the English students pay three times more in tuition fees that students from Wales do. Welsh students have also benefitted from educational maintenance allowance and the Welsh Labour Government will not scrap their maintenance grants.
I also mentioned the specific case of Kate Delaney, Vice President of Welfare at Cardiff University Students Union, originally from Preston, who would not have been able to attend university without the maintenance grant she received.
Following the debate, the vote descended into chaos as it was the first time the “double majority” voting was required (otherwise known as EVEL ‘English Votes for English Laws’ rules). Despite the fact that changes to maintenance grants will affect many constituents of Welsh and Scottish MPs, the vote was declared applicable to England only.
I think it’s disgraceful that the Government have been able to push through these changes without proper scrutiny. Removing student maintenance grants was not in the Tory election manifesto and their attempts to sneak through the changes betray their contempt for democracy, but in particular, their contempt for students.
Along with these changes the UK Government is failing young people across the board. They’re taking away Housing Benefit for under 21 year olds, they’ve removed EMA and their new national living wage won’t apply to people under 25.
I’m proud that the Welsh Labour Government protects students from Wales from unmanageable debt so they can fulfil their aspirations, but I really feel for the 40% of the poorest students from England who will suffer as a result of yet another mean and regressive policy from a mean and regressive Tory Government.
Watch my speech in full: