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Five ways of defending the Government during an Opposition Day debate

by Paul Goodman

There are many, many means.  Here are snippets of five from yesterday's proceedings -

1. Praise your constituents.

Mr Marcus Jones (Nuneaton)

"I have two fantastic post-16 colleges in my constituency, King Edward VI college and North Warwickshire and Hinckley college. I have met a number of students at North Warwickshire and Hinckley college, and had a detailed discussion with them. Their biggest concern, and the biggest impediment that they saw to young people continuing their studies, was the issue of travel to and from college. That is something that we have to address, and not just for people from rural areas; it is a problem for people from urban areas as well."

2. Use your experience.

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) -

"However, I then got into the teaching profession and started to see the impact of some of the support. Over time, I started to realise that doing as I had done is not a sustainable way for many people to fund their further education from 16 to 18, and that it is not a possibility for many people-it certainly is not since the changes in employment legislation. Although those changes have advantaged part-time workers, they have in some ways made it harder for teenagers to get part-time jobs."

3. Do the sums.

David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) -

"The 18 October 2010 edition of The Observer reported on a Local Government Association report published that month suggesting that 90% of those claiming did not need that benefit. That means that only £56 million gets into the pockets of the poorest in our society, whereas we want to increase discretionary payments to £78 million by 2015...Under our proposals, poorer students in my constituency of Morecambe and Lunesdale will be better off, while we will save the taxpayer money. I thank the Secretary of State, who sadly is not here, for the £250,000 he recently put towards Morecambe college."

4. Remind everyone that we're broke.

Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con) -

"Opposition Members like to believe that some infinite pool of funds can be dipped into at will, which is certainly not the case. The measure cannot be considered in isolation. We must bear in mind that whatever we spend must be taxed or borrowed, or indeed debased. It is absolutely wrong to attempt to bribe 16 to 18-year-olds with their own money at interest, as Opposition Members have sought to do.  One hon. Gentleman suggested that we were going back to the 1880s, but I am afraid that that is facile."

5. And finally...never forget to attack the Opposition.

Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys) -

"Labour Members cannot keep simply backing structures rather than people. It is horrifying that, in a modern democracy, we have a Labour party that still likes to think that it can keep people under its thumb, say, "You'll get £30 a week and no more; we're going to keep you where you are," and then expect people to be grateful. I want a further and higher education system in which all people can participate without being restricted by a barrier of £30 a week and no more."


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