A petition signed by more than 130,000 people calling for the end of retrospective changes to the student loans agreement has triggered a parliamentary debate.

The debate is to take place on Monday 18 July and will be led by Labour MP Helen Jones, who chairs the cross-party Petitions Committee that has decided to kick-start a debate in Westminster Hall as a result of the petition, which quotes MoneySavingExpert.com.

The Petitions Committee chose to give the green light to the debate yesterday, following a House of Commons debate involving Valerie Vaz MP and Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson.

Addressing the minister on Monday, Vaz cited the Government's decision to ignore 84% of consultation responses last year that were against freezing the threshold at which first-time undergraduates in England who have started university since September 2012 repay their loans.

The Government had previously promised to increase the £21,000 repayment threshold every year to reflect earnings.

But because the Government has since gone back on its word and frozen the threshold, many of these students will pay back more.

For example, if you earn £23,000 and the threshold had increased to £23,000, you'd have repaid nothing, but as it's stuck at £21,000, you repay £180 a year.

Martin Lewis
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What can we expect from this upcoming debate?

While it's good news the Petitions Committee has given the go-ahead to this debate, it remains to be seen whether the Government will change its tune and undo its previous U-turn.

Martin Lewis, MoneySavingExpert founder and former head of the Independent Taskforce on Student Finance Information, says: "The retrospective change to the student loan repayment threshold is a national disgrace. No commercial company would be allowed to change a loan contract in this way after people had signed it – and the Government shouldn't be allowed to either.   

"Yet don't be surprised that in response to over 130,000 concerned students, parents and other members of the public signing a petition, the Government just trotted out the same old trite excuses. After all, it consulted on this and 84% of responses told them not to do it, but they ignored that and went ahead anyway."

He adds: "As predicted, though, thankfully while the Government put its fingers in its ears, Parliament has sat up and listened. And with a new Government coming in September, there is still time for it to do a U-turn on this disgraceful policy and I for one will be pushing as hard and loudly as possible for that to happen – all students, graduates and their parents should do the same and contact their MP at the time of the debate."

Speaking after the recent debate, Vaz told MSE: "Students are alarmed that the Government's retrospective change in loans has resulted in a large repayment of debt. Some face a debt of £45,000. The minister did not respond to any of my questions, including what happened when students want to take out a mortgage and are still paying back their loans.

"A minister comes to the House to say there will be an increase in the threshold and the Government ignores it. A consultation gives an 84% response and the Government ignores it, and presses ahead with the proposal.

"A young person has to sign a form with the contract terms in another document online, with three rates of interest. I will be tabling further questions and ensuring that students are not burdened by debt under this inequities scheme, but enjoy their education."

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