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By Bishop of Leeds
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WATCH: Jeremy Corbyn: Labour did not know how much cancelling student debt would cost

2 min read

Labour did not know before the election how much it would cost to cancel historic student debt, Jeremy Corbyn has revealed. 

The Labour leader has come under fire from political opponents for his statement – made shortly before polling day – that he would “deal with” the tuition fee debts accumulated by those who had already passed through the higher education system.

The party has since stressed that it was never intended as a firm commitment, and Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner estimated that the policy would cost in the region of £100bn.

Mr Corbyn today revealed that the party’s plans would be revealed “in the near future”, but insisted he had never promised to cancel the debts altogether.

“What I said was we would deal with it by trying to reduce the burden of it,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

“We never said we would completely abolish it because we were unaware of the size at that time. John McDonnell has established a working party to look at this policy and we will be making a statement on it in the near future which will set out what our plans are.”

Labour went into the election pledging to abolish tuition fees, which are due to rise to £9,250 this autumn.

Mr Corbyn said there was a clear distinction between that policy and his comments about historic student debt.

He added: “I pointed out there was a massive overhanging debt that many people dealt with. I recognised it was a huge burden, I did not make a commitment we will write it off because I couldn’t at that stage – I pointed out we’d written the manifesto in a short space of time because it was a surprise election –but that we would look at ways of reducing that debt burden, recognising quite a lot of it is never going to be collected anyway.

“But the point we absolutely made was that we would abolish the student debt from the time we were election. And were we now in government we would be taking measures to ensure that the 2017/18 students did not pay fees – or we would reimburse them if we couldn’t get the legislation through in time. We were completely clear about that.”



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