It is not possible to build a successful economy unless working families are themselves successful. Labour understands that this means giving a meaningful start in life to the younger generation.
The decision by the coalition to raise tuition fees to £9000 was amongst the earliest actions which they took to set a direction of travel as to their dismissive attitude to younger people.
Famously, Nick Clegg broke his solemn word to the country and is unlikely ever to be forgiven for that betrayal. Rightly so. And not simply because he had broken his word and imposed huge debt burdens on the back of most students.
But also because of the decision to fund higher education in this way speaks to a view of the system where Universities in effect cease to be a public good, but a set of individualised transactional relationships between students and the institutions which provide the degrees.
But only 50% of our younger people go to University. For the other half – the Tories’ forgotten fifty per cent – there was too little on offer. Too often enfeebled training was rebadged as ‘apprenticeships’. For the rest there was often unsatisfactory working or even long tem unemployment.
As Ed Miliband set out today, the Tory-led Government’s decision to treble tuition fees from 2012 goes beyond the betrayal of an election promise. Taken together with everything else they have done, what has happened over the last five years is a betrayal of an entire generation.
Labour will change all this with a series of new opportunities to young people.
Here are seven reasons why the announcements today, together with other announcements we have made, make up a progressive approach to backing the next generation:
1. At the heart of Labour’s plan for tuition fees is a belief that university education is a public good rather than something that should be entirely left to the market. Labour is clear that university funding should be a shared responsibility between students and the state. Today’s announcement goes some way to restore that balance, and is a rejection of the market ideology the Tories and Lib Dems have imposed on our higher education system.
2. There is nothing progressive about saddling our future generations with £44,000 of debt. Under the Tory and Lib Dem system almost three-quarters of graduates will never pay their loan back in full, meaning they have tens of thousands of pounds of debt hanging over them for 30 years. So Labour’s policy to cut tuition fees to £6,000 will mean cutting the amount of debt loaded on to all graduates by up to £9,000.
3. Labour will also make the system fairer and more progressive by asking the top earning graduates to pay back more through a higher interest rate. This additional funding will be used to increase grants by £400 – benefitting more than half of students who are from households on middle and lower incomes.
4. Our plan to cut tuition fees will be fully funded by asking the richest in our society to pay a little more but restricting pension tax relief for the highest earners. We think this is only fair – why should the richest in our society receive double the rate of tax relief of those on lower incomes only receive 20 per cent?
5. Today’s announcement is part of our wider plan for the next generation, which includes more high-quality apprenticeships
6. We will provide a jobs guarantee to help get all our long term young unemployed people back into work.
7. Today’s focus was on our university students but let’s not forget that it has been Ed Miliband leading the way on increasing opportunities for the young people who the Tories forgot– those who choose not to go to university but instead wish to pursue a vocational route to work.
Taken together, Labour’s Young Person’s Guarantee is a progressive plan for a better Britain.