New Clause 4 - Access to Sharia-compliant lifelong learning loans

Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:45 pm ar 7 Rhagfyr 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

“(1) The Secretary of State must make provision by regulations for Sharia-compliant student finance to be made available as part of the lifelong learning entitlement.

(2) Regulations under this section are to be made by statutory instrument, and a statutory instrument containing regulations under this section may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”—

This new clause allows the Secretary of State to make provision for Sharia-compliant LLE loans to ensure that the LLE is not a barrier to participation and upskilling.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Education) 4:00, 7 Rhagfyr 2021

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause, tabled by my right hon. Friend Stephen Timms, relates to access to sharia-compliant lifelong learning loans. It is important that students do not feel excluded from applying for lifelong learning loans because they are not sharia-compliant. There are many different aspects to loans under sharia law. Though their effect may be similar to that of other loans, the way in which they are set up and implemented is different, and the funds are also utilised in different ways.

It is incredibly important—and I think this is recognised by Members of both main parties—that action is taken on sharia-compliant lifelong learning loans. It is regrettable, however, that thus far nothing has been done. We have been given to believe that the Augar review may result in sharia-compliant lifelong learning loans, but we have not yet seen anything to that effect. My right hon. Friend’s new clause therefore encourages the Secretary of State to

“make provision by regulations for Sharia-compliant student finance to be made available as part of the lifelong learning entitlement.”

Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss sharia-compliant student finance. The Government have been considering an alternative student finance product, compatible with Islamic finance principles, alongside their other priorities as they conclude the post-18 review of educational funding.

New powers were taken in section 86 of the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 to enable the Secretary of State to make alternative payments, in addition to grants and loans, to enable the implementation of ASF. Clause 15 already makes provision for such alternative payments to be made as part of the lifetime loan entitlement. As such, when coupled with the existing provisions in HERA, the new clause would not give the Secretary of State any additional powers. The clause 15 provisions for alternative payments would come into force should the Government decide to commence the provisions in HERA that enable alternative payments to be provided to students. The Government will reach a decision on the availability of a sharia-compliant student finance product as part of the full and final conclusion of the post-18 review, and will provide an update on ASF at that time.

In relation to the second part of the new clause, the Secretary of State may already lay student support regulations using the affirmative procedure contained in section 42 of the Teaching and Higher Education 1998, should he choose to do so. The new clause would not add any powers beyond those already under the Bill or existing legislation, and so should not be added to the Bill.

Photo of Rachel Hopkins Rachel Hopkins Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

I rise to support new clause 4, tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham. The Minister says we will see the outcome of the post-18 review with regards to HERA. However, the reason why it is so important that the new clause is added to the Bill relates to further education. Because no finance or loans fit with the principles of Islam, many people end up saving up until they have sufficient funds to be able to afford their degree. The whole point of the Bill is the emphasis on ensuring that people can up their skills at level 3. If they are not able to access a loan that is compliant with the principles of Islam, and if they are on a low income, they really have no chance of being able to save up to afford to fund up front from their savings. The proposal of a lifelong learning entitlement through a loan therefore becomes a vicious circle, and they will not be able to access the training and gain the skills that they need.

For many people, this really is a matter of urgency if we are genuinely going to help people to reskill or upskill, particularly for many constituents of mine in Luton South. It is important to push the Government on this, particularly because HERA was published in 2017, and because of the commitment from the former Prime Minister, Mr Cameron, in 2013 when this first started to be talked about. This long-term delay and lack of action is not good enough. I support new clause 4.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Rhif adran 25 Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [Lords] — New Clause 4 - Access to Sharia-compliant lifelong learning loans

Ie: 5 MPs

Na: 9 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.