Theresa May: How does the new Prime Minster vote on student and young people’s issues?

The incoming leader looks set to face pressure on her already tough stance on international students in the UK

Caitlin Doherty
Wednesday 13 July 2016 09:22 BST

From Wednesday 13 July, Theresa May will be Prime Minister of Great Britain after the post-Brexit race for Number 10 disintegrated following Andrea Leadsom quitting the race. However, as is true of any PM, there will be more to her premiership than a singular issue: she will be PM of the UK - not just the Brexit gatekeeper.

But what will her tenure have in store for students and young people? Her voting habits and ministerial action on several issues that are important to the young electorate could give us a good idea as to how she will approach the issues that matter most to voters under 25:

Living costs

May seems to have taken a classically conservative view to the cost of living and everyday taxation: lower taxes, a freer market.

She has consistently voted to raise the threshold at which workers begin paying income tax, reducing the number of people paying the tax and allowing low earners to keep hold of a greater percentage of their income. Workers currently begin paying income tax when their wages surpass £11,000 per year. This means the vast majority of student part-time jobs are not subjected to taxation.

However, she was not opposed to blocking increases in travel fares on vital, yet expensive, buses and train services for many students who are living away from home. Similarly, although a vague Bill, she declined to pressure the Government on a number of issues that were raised in 2013, many of which are directly connected to affordable housing and the cost of living. She chose to vote against calling on the Government to take ‘real action’ on jobs, affordable accommodation, rising energy and water bills and the cost of commuting.

That being said, she was a strong supporter of all of Chancellor George Osborne’s budgets, many of which have been committed to reducing or freezing alcohol duty.

Affordable housing

Throughout Cameron’s premiership, May has voted against restricting the fees charged by letting agents to tenants or prospective tenants.

Opposing landlord restrictions has a particularly adverse impact on student tenants. Student rents are rising across the country, particularly in southern cities. Students at UCL, for example, withheld their rent for five months this year as a mark of protest against rising prices. Despite UCL agreeing to a £1 million fund to assist the strikers and future students, this decision is not legally binding.

Unemployment and access to work

Graduate prospects could falter under the new Prime Minister as she has committed to respecting the mandate for leaving the European Union. According to a study released before the vote, half of the UK’s top graduate employers said they would have to slash their UK recruitment by half in the event of a Brexit vote.

Whilst May did not campaign for Leave, choosing instead to support Cameron’s Remain campaign, the process of her negotiations and eventual withdrawal from the Union could still jeopardise job prospects.

Similarly, her record on worker’s rights could be seen as unfavourable to those in a number of industries. May voted to restrict trade union activity and make strike action more difficult by voting in favour of a 50 per cent turnout requirement to validate a strike ballot, and advocated the appointment of picket supervisors, responsible for the picketers and contactable by the police at all times.

Gap between rich and poor

As is evident on her legislation on ‘Living Costs’, May is not fond of higher taxation, a principle that many believe could help to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

7 things you didn't know about Theresa May

May voted against a tax on bankers’ bonuses, the ‘mansion tax’, and a higher tax rate for those earning more than £150,000. However, she voted in favour of the bedroom tax, the alteration to Housing Benefit Entitlement that meant those in council properties with a spare bedroom lost a proportion of their welfare.

Having said that, Cameron’s government has been committed to ‘widening participation’ in higher education, a scheme that aims to help those from lower socio-economic groups into universities and other higher education schemes and into placements that were previously more commonly occupied by those with economic advantage. The scheme has been adopted by many of the UK’s top universities including Edinburgh and King’s College London, and according to Government data, the number of pupils eligible for free school meals who entered higher education increased from 13 per cent in 2006, to 23 per cent in 2013.

University education

May’s view on university tuition fees has been torn along party lines during her time in the Commons. During Tony Blair’s tenure - when tuition fees were raised from £1,225 per year to £3,000 - she opposed any and all votes on raising the cost of education, however, she supported and voted in favour of the controversial Coalition policy to raise the tuition fee cap to £9,000.

During this current Parliament, she has not opposed the decision to retrospectively alter student loan agreements. The Government, of which May was Home Secretary, backtracked on a promise that the salary at which graduates would start repaying their loans would rise with inflation and the cost of living. Instead, this rate has been frozen at £21,000 meaning grads will now be forced to pay back more that they had originally signed up to. During a public consultation, 84 per cent of respondents disagreed with this decision, yet it went ahead anyway.

As Home Secretary, she has also faced heavy criticism for her treatment of international students. Earlier this year, an inquiry was opened into the Home Office’s treatment of tens of thousands of students who were deported as a result of an apparent scam surrounding English language tests in London. According to the inquiry, May and her colleagues’ mass deportation relied too heavily on evidence from a BBC Panorama documentary, and without thorough investigation by the department itself.

Equally, since last month’s EU referendum result, May has done little to guarantee the future of international students studying in the UK. During her Tory leadership campaign, she struggled to commit to the future of EU nationals living and studying in the UK, refusing to rule out deportation for those without British citizenship.

Voting record taken from

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