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This website wont be updated for some time. If you want to contact me as an MP please go to
if you just want to know what I am up to follow me on twitter at @tpearce003
Any of you who have read Dickens or any history of Victorian London will know that before 1891 when it became law for education to be provided free to children that only the children of wealthy families were properly schooled although there were some “bursaries” provided to a handful of suitable young men from poor backgrounds to attend the fee paying schools.
However after reading that the men only group, Welling Round Table, are holding a busary contest (girls need not apply) it seems that some things have not changed. Even though we think that education is a right and that anyone who wants to go to University should be able to go no matter what their family background or income there is still the concept of the “deserving poor”. The amount being offered will no doubt be gratefully received. However, with some Universities now looking at charging £9,000 a year it will be a tough decision for many young people as to whether they should incur a huge debt or just forget University and try to get a job. But with 1 in 5 young people now out of work its not much of a choice to be making.
I have no doubt that the Round Table’s intentions are well meaning and that the young man chosen will be very pleased but in 2011 to be asking children to compete against each other , parading their poverty to obtain a life chance that should be theirs by right would I believe have Charles Dickens spinning in his grave.
The DWP Select Committee went to Burnley yesterday to listen to local people and their experiences of the new Work Capability Assessment its been written up by the Guardian below
I was surprised to read Paul Maynard’s comments in The Times where he says he believes Labour MP’s ridiculed his disability.
First I would say that its possible for the House Authorities to review the footage of that evenings debate and to see if this happened. If it did then those responsible should be firmly held to account.
Second I remember the debate very well as my daughter had gone into labour that night with her first baby and I wanted to leave the Commons but the whips would not hear of it so I was in the Chamber listening to the debate on Child Trust Funds. In fact I spoke directly after Mr Maynard and I do remember it was highly charged as Mr Maynard began his speech with a personal comment about the previous speaker and then went on to be down right rude to a number of MPs.
So I think if he thought people were not being nice to him then he is probably right but was it because of his disability of because of his attitude? I would very much like to the Speaker to look at the footage and find out.
Please read the debate for yourself and see what you think. Paul begins to speak at 6.35 and continues until 6.54 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm101026/debtext/101026-0002.htm
This is a blog by a friend about the peaceful sit in yesterday at New Cross Library.
Tonight I left the office got tube to Embankment and I got to Charing Cross at about 18.35 hoping to go home. Yes I know…. Me and my crazy dreams eh?
On the board the 18.48 had delayed next to it so I went to the help desk to ask if there was “a problem” on my line.
She looked at me as if suggesting “a problem” was akin to asking if there were any Martians about. The woman said “no” I pointed out the delayed train and she said no it was just that train. As another was due at 19.07 I thought I would wait.
I could have gone to London Bridge to get a train on Cannon Street line but I believed her. Yes I know how foolish that sounds now.
So I waited only to hear that the next train due on my line would now be fast to Dartford, therefore not stopping at my station. So then (20 mins) after arriving at Charing Cross I go to London Bridge. Trains all running late but board says Greenwich train due on platform 2 at 19.13 so we all troop to platform 2 and are surprised to see that there is a Greenwich train also due at 19.14 at platform 1 but not as surprised as all the people who were expecting the Hayes train on platform 1 next.
So the 19.13 train at platform 2 pulls in and it’s a short train so there is no way in a month of Sundays we are going to get on it but some poor souls try. I and many others think oh well there is another in 1 minute on platform 1, although I did wonder how they were going to run 2 trains within a minute of each other on the same line. But I digress.
So the jam packed train pulls out and I say to the man in the office, pointing at platform 1, is the Greenwich train next? He says oh no it’s just left. I point out that the board said another in a minute on platform 1 and he shrugged and says oh they are automated notices it’s wrong. Now the Hayes train pulls in but loads of the passengers for Hayes have left the platform, to go to see the indicator boards on the bridge, as they like everyone was expecting the next train to be Greenwich.
Eventually at 19.20 a Greenwich train arrives and I eventually arrive home at 20.10. A mere 1 hour 40 minutes after starting my 15 mile journey home. Marvellous.
Not had chance to write on here for ages due to just being so darn busy. One of the things occupying my time was trying to get the Legal Services Commission to change its mind about their decision to withdraw legal aid from a group of families who blame an epilepsy drug for causing defects in their children. The case had been six years preparing for trial and to have the legal aid withdrawn at this 11th hour means it will not get heard in court. I have written to the Minister , lodged an Early Day Motion and met with some of the families and the lawyer David Body. Its a heartbreaking case. The full press release is below
Lawyers acting for families who blame an epilepsy drug for causing defects in their children have said they are dropping their case against its maker after legal aid was withdrawn.
Solicitors Irwin Mitchell said their clients were “devastated” that their case would never be heard in court after six years of preparation for trial.
The Legal Services Commission (LSC) said in November that it was no longer funding an action against the makers of sodium valproate, a drug used to prevent epileptic seizures.
About 80 families claim the drug, also known as epilim, caused a range of birth defects, including spina bifida, damage to the heart, learning difficulties, cleft palate and deformities of the hands and feet.
They have been pursuing a legal action for damages against manufacturer sanofi-aventis, claiming there were inadequate warnings about possible harm in the 1990s.
The firm has denied the claims, saying it has always provided appropriate precautions and warnings on the risks associated with possible side-effects of the medicine.
The law firm had urged the LSC to rethink its decision, saying the action was an important test case.
David Body, a medical law and patients’ rights expert at Irwin Mitchell, said: “We have been fighting on behalf of hundreds of children who have been injured after their mothers took epilim in pregnancy for over six years, but we have been forced to abandon the trial of the action after Legal Services Commission funding was withdrawn.
“At a hearing on January 28 we will be advising the court that our case against the manufacturers of epilim must be discontinued, not because we have lost our fight in court but because continuing without legal aid funding would place our clients at too great a financial risk.
“Our clients are understandably devastated that their case will never be heard in court after six years of preparation for trial. Not having lost at court, our clients are understandably concerned to continue their fight to have the manufacturers of the drug, sanofi, meet their obligations to the children injured by epilim. We fully support our clients in their ongoing campaign to achieve compensation for the harm their children have suffered as a result of drug exposure.”
Teresa Pearce (Erith and Thamesmead) (Lab): It is a privilege to have this debate under your chairmanship, Ms Clark. I am pleased to see so many hon. Members here to talk about an important issue. I will try to keep my speech brief, so that everybody can get in to make their points and, more importantly, to ask questions.
I asked for this debate for two reasons. First, we need to highlight the effect that the decision to scrap the education maintenance allowance will have on young people throughout the country. Secondly, we need answers about how the proposed financial support scheme, the enhanced discretionary learner support fund, will work.
Last week in the main Chamber, a vote was carried that will allow university tuition fees to rise up to £9,000 in a year to plug the gaping hole in the higher education budget left by the Government’s 80% cut. I voted against that rise with other Opposition Members. The Government fail to grasp that, by cutting EMA, many young people from poorer backgrounds, particularly in constituencies such as mine, will never reach the level at which they will be able even to consider attending university. Taken together, the tuition fee increase and the scrapping of EMA are a heavy blow to young people in constituencies such as mine.
The EMA keeps many young people in Erith and Thamesmead in college or sixth form-and in some cases, it has to be said, on the straight and narrow. Their families rely on payments to cover the costs of attending college, including transport and books, and they often help top up the family budget. One of my constituents, Trudy Mackie, wrote to me recently, saying:
Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab): My constituent, Timar Misghina, a student, said precisely the sorts of things that my hon. Friend has just quoted. Tellingly, she said that EMA not only helps with books, transport and clothing, but helps to get her through her studies with fewer worries. It is important that, when people are trying to study, they and their families are not in a state of constant worry about money.
Some 43% of students at Bexley college and 38% of students at Greenwich college-the two largest colleges serving my constituency-receive EMA, the vast majority receiving the higher rate of £30 a week. Some argue that
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this money does not have an effect, but the principal of Bexley college, Danny Ridgeway, has confirmed that, in the past two academic years, students at his college in receipt of EMA have been more likely to pass their course than their colleagues who have not received EMA support. I believe that this positive outcome is linked to the attendance requirement attached to EMA payments.
Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab): On that point, I received an e-mail from the principal of Hugh Baird college in Bootle, telling me that 84% of young people at the college currently receive EMA. She says that it is clear that the EMA has become a key part of family income and that its discontinuation is very likely to impact on the participation rate locally. In addition, a study in Merseyside colleges shows that the results of those on EMA are 7% higher than those of people who do not receive it.
The Government’s current line is that many students would have stayed in education anyway and that EMA is therefore a dead-weight. When the Minister makes this point-I am sure that he will-I would be grateful if he commented on the following points. First, research underpinning the dead-weight assertion was flawed, because it was undertaken only among schools, when 69% of the recipients of EMA attend colleges not schools. Furthermore, a significant number of EMA recipients are black and ethnic minority, yet those surveyed were 91% white. If a survey is undertaken with an unrepresentative sample, I believe that the results are irrelevant to the debate.
Secondly, research from the Institute of Fiscal Studies showed that where EMA is available, participation in education and attainment levels increased. Does the Minister not think that those are worthwhile objectives?
Thirdly, many public policies involve a high amount of dead-weight-for example, the initiative announced in the June Budget about temporary relief from national insurance contributions for new businesses. The Treasury’s costing shows that 96% of that tax cut will go to employers who would have set up anyway and that 4% will go to employers who have set up in response to the incentives. If the sole aim of this policy is to stimulate new business, it would be regarded as 96% dead-weight. Why are employers worthy of support, while young people, who are the future of this country, are not?
Before I turn to the details of the enhanced discretionary learner support fund, I wish to discuss what will happen to those students who currently receive EMA and are mid-way through their courses.
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Mr Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East) (Lab): My hon. Friend is right to say that the Government have based their whole case for withdrawing EMA on the research that she mentioned. The Minister will base his case on that research, saying that only a minority of students say that they would not have pursued any course at all if they had not received EMA, but that is not the sole point, is it? Surely the point is the level of sacrifice that families will have to make so that their young people can pursue education.
Does the Minister accept that if he withdraws EMA, even from those students who say that they would proceed with a course, the sacrifice that families have to make will be increased, particularly among those who need the help most-students with learning disabilities, teen parents and those from the poorest families? Does he really want to pursue that policy?
Students who receive EMA and are mid-way through their courses began those courses in good faith and could not have foreseen that the funding that they were promised would be withdrawn later. On 25 November, my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) and I wrote to the Secretary of State for Education, urging him to ensure that students would continue to receive EMA for the duration of their courses. We have not yet had a clear response from him, so I would be grateful if the Minister clarified what is to happen to those students, particularly given the recent confusion between written answers and information appearing on Government websites.
In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones) on 15 November, the Minister said that £174 million would be set aside for EMA in 2011-12, the next school year. Yet the Directgov website states:
EMA keeps young people focused on their studies, as other hon. Members have mentioned, meaning that they do not have to take on part-time jobs to see them through their education. Long gone are the days when students could get Saturday jobs to do that, because those jobs are often taken by middle-aged women. The jobs just are not there.
The Government have indicated that future decisions on who will receive payments will be made at individual institutions. The coalition Government say that that is because the school or college is closer to students and
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can make better judgments, but those very institutions are opposing the withdrawal of EMA. If the Minister trusts their judgment about the administration of the enhanced discretionary learners support fund, perhaps he will tell us why he does not trust their judgement on the value of EMA as a whole.
I would like answers to the following questions. Will the new scheme take account of travel costs? A written answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan shows that the last time the Government assessed the average travel costs per student was in 2003. How will we know what the costs are now if the figures are eight years old?
Will the enhanced discretionary learners support fund even include travel costs? At the moment, it does not. What safety net will be in place if too many students need funding, but not enough money is available locally to fund them? Will that mean less funding per student, will allocation be on a first come, first served basis, will students have to parade their poverty to see who is at the front of the queue, or will more funding be made available? If a college does not use all its grant, what will happen to the surplus? My constituency could be considered to be an area with a high level of student need, and those questions are important to me and the people who sent me here.
PLANS to scrap weekly allowances for young people in education could leave poorer Erith & Thamesmead teens on the scrap heap.
The government’s proposal to end the education maintenance allowance – which hands struggling 16 to 18-year-olds in college or sixth form up to £30 a week – will affect South East London youths disproportionately.
In Erith and Thamesmead constituency 43% of students at Bexley College and 38% of students at Greenwich Community College receive EMA with the vast majority at the higher £30 rate.
Lisa Nandy MP for Wigan and I have decided to campaign together on this issue and have written to the Minister. A copy of the text of the letter is below.
RE: Proposed abolition of EMAs.
We write in relation to your decision to axe the Educational Maintenance Allowance and to express our concerns regarding the many thousands of young people this will affect in our constituencies. In one Wigan College, for example, over half of its students are currently in receipt of the top rate of the allowance. Similarly, in the Erith and Thamesmead constituency 43% of students at Bexley College and 38% of students at Greenwich Community College receive EMA with the vast majority at the higher £30 rate.
EMA has helped children into Further Education and beyond across the country – from Wigan to Erith and Thamesmead and the decision to scrap it will affect poor students across the country from northern pit villages to London estates. After speaking to local students and teachers and hearing of the impact that it has had on their day-to-day lives we wish to state emphatically that we are opposed to cutting EMA. Our views are supported by the National Union of Students and the University and Colleges Union, as well as many other campaigning groups around the country.
However, as the debate continues we wish to seek urgent clarification that students currently undertaking their courses at schools and further education colleges will receive their EMA for the period up to the end of their course. In a recent Parliamentary Question, you clearly stated that there would be £174 million set aside for EMA in the next school year, yet on the Direct.Gov website it now states that all students will have their money withdrawn at the end of this year (http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/14To19/MoneyToLearn/EMA/index.htm. These students began their courses in good faith and could not have foreseen that the funding they have been promised would be withdrawn at a later stage. We therefore ask that students who undertook their courses on this understanding continue to receive EMA until the end of their course. We would also like to know why this information appears to have been placed on the direct.gov website before it was given to Parliament.
Not only does EMA provide valuable support for students who would otherwise be unable to gain qualifications past GCSE level, there are other benefits to be taken into consideration, not least the impact on the local economy. Based on the 2008/09 statistics, EMA recipients of only two colleges in Wigan provide almost £75,000 per week and two colleges in Erith and Thamesmead nearly £28,000 per week in additional revenue to local businesses and service providers.
We hope that you have fully considered the impact of abolishing EMA but in the meantime look forward to receiving your assurance that students currently in receipt of the allowance will not be penalised.
Todays Mail on Sunday carries a report about Nick Johnson ex Chief Exec of Bexley Council who left Bexley due to permanent ill health on a recently inflated final salary pension only to start work in Hammersmith weeks later. I attach a link below to the story.