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Government Asset Sale Update

Volume 650: debated on Tuesday 4 December 2018

I am pleased to inform Parliament that the Government have today completed their sale of part of the older, pre-2012, English student loan book achieving a value of £1.9 billion.

The Government have been clear in their commitment that the position of all borrowers, including those whose loans have been sold, will not change as a result of the sale. This sale does not and cannot in any way alter the mechanisms and terms of repayment: sold loans will continue to be serviced by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Student Loans Company (SLC) on the same basis as equivalent unsold loans. Purchasers have no right to change any of the current loan arrangements or to contact borrowers directly. The sale does not change the Government’s current approach to higher education or student finance.

The Student Loans Company will be writing to borrowers whose loans have been sold within three months to notify them of the sale. No action will be required from borrowers. Government have no plans to change, or to consider changing, the terms of pre-2012 loans. I also want to be clear that these older loans, whose borrowers benefited from lower tuition fees as well as lower interest rates, are not in scope of the current review of post-18 education and funding.

This sale is good for the taxpayer. It releases money that is tied up and serving no policy purpose, to invest in other policy priorities now, while keeping within the spending limits we need to strengthen public finances. The sold loans have already been in repayment for over nine years, and therefore a portion of the original value has already been paid back to the Government. The Government do not expect all of the remaining loans to be paid off in full and the sale guarantees money upfront today rather than waiting for fluctuating and uncertain payments over a long period of time. This sale also transfers risk to the private sector. Repayment income from student loans fluctuates with economic performance, as do tax receipts and managed expenditure like benefits. Selling the loans reduces the Government’s exposure to this fluctuation. The Government are committed to reducing public sector net debt in order to enhance the UK’s economic resilience, improve fiscal sustainability and lessen the debt interest burden on future generations. This sale makes a significant contribution to that objective.

The Government do not sell at any price. Throughout the process, the Government's decision on whether to proceed remained subject to market conditions and a final value for money assessment. This looked at whether we were selling to an efficient market, that can price the asset efficiently, and at a price that was worth more to the Government than retaining the loans. The Government’s retention value takes into account predicted repayments, the effect of inflation, the riskiness of the asset and the opportunity cost of having money tied up in the asset.

I can confirm that the price offered in aggregate across the book was above the Government’s retention value range. I will shortly be laying before Parliament a report on the sale in accordance with section 4 of the Sale of Student Loans Act 2008. This will provide more detail on the sale arrangements, and the extent to which they give good value as well as covering the sale’s different fiscal impacts.