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NEW socialist Labour MP Zarah Sultana has told the Tories to “look her in the eye” and defend the “crippling debt” that working-class students face due to high tuition fees.
Speaking in the Commons during education questions today, Ms Sultana brandished her Student Loan Company debt at Tory frontbenchers, including Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Universities Minister Chris Skidmore.
“In 2010, like thousands of other young people, I argued against the tripling of tuition fees,” she said.
“But the government ignored us, and now I am in nearly £50,000 of debt.
“This is my latest student loan statement. As it says, in the last year alone the interest added was £2,022.65.
“I ask the Secretary of State: can he look me in the eye and tell me with a straight face that it is fair that working-class kids who want an education are forced to take on this crushing debt when his government is led by a man who went from the playing fields of Eton to a free education at Oxford?”
Mr Skidmore replied: “When it comes to the payments themselves, students are paying nothing back until they earn over £25,000.
“The government is committed to looking to rates of interest in future as part of the Conservative manifesto proposals.”
Mr Williamson said: “We want to ensure that every post-18 education system can benefit in the future.”
Conservative Goole MP Andrew Percy defended the role of the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition in tripling university tuition fees in 2010, interjecting to say: “Can I urge my honourable friend to ignore the class warfare of the honourable lady opposite?”
This led to jeers from the Labour benches.
Ms Sultana, who was 17 years old in 2010, was active in the huge student anti-government protests during that period.
She went on to become a leading activist on the left wing of the National Union of Students (NUS) and was elected to the national leadership of the NUS and Young Labour.
After being elected to the Coventry South constituency in the December election, Ms Sultana made ripples by breaking convention with her maiden speech, which demanded an end to “40 years of Thatcherism.”
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