Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In Which I Disagree With Nick a Lot

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
Over on Lib Dem Voice there is a letter which Nick Clegg has sent to all MPs on the subject of Tuition Fees. In it he writes:

Like you, I am painfully aware of the pledge we all made to voters on tuition fees ahead of the General Election. Departing from that pledge will be one of the most difficult decisions of my political career. It means doing something that no one likes to do in politics – acknowledging that the assumptions we made at election time simply don’t work out in practice. With the benefit of hindsight, I signed a pledge at a time when we could not have anticipated the full scale of the financial situation the country faces now and the absence of plausible alternatives for students to the arrangements we are now advocating.

Actually NO Nick I don't agree with you. The Browne report is looking at removing the cap on tuition fees. This means that only the wealthiest of our young people, those from a privileged back ground will be able to go to our finest institutions of learning. This is not the fairness for students that we stood for.

As well as promising not to increase tuition fees we did say we would seek a fairer alternative. One thing we suggested in the past to do it was a penny on income tax. Income is a fairer way of paying for University education than tuition fees (which now will be paid back at commercial rates of interest). It is also fairer that a graduate tax, expecially as some graduates will be working alongside people in the same payscale who will not have a degree, though the graduate will be paying 9% more.

The Browne report is not seeking a fairer alternative laissez faire pricing of education does ensure that our brightest get a fair deal. The rich already pay to ensure their young go to the best schools, to get the best results, to go to the best universities. To then ensure that we also price smartest A Level students from the state sector out of the course of their choice, which meets their abilities, is not liberal and is not democratic.

Those who manage to get to Oxford or Cambridge from the state sector already do so at a great disadvantage. To place them at a further disadvantage as the Browne Report allows, is not why I stood for election. This is battle I have been fighting since the Thatcher Government of my undergraduate days moved to bring in loans rather than making the maintenance grant a fair and workable system. The campaign for fair student finance is one that runs through my political veins as deeply and any Lib Dem policy thread, if not deeper.

I signed the NUS Pledge as did every Lib Dem MP. I am standing by my promise to the students of Linlithgow and East Falkirk and I will continue to ensure that Liberal Democrat MPs do the

The Browne report far exceeds what was envisioned when the coalition deal was signed. A lifting of the cap on tuition fees was one thing, a removal of it all together is not what we envisioned. The goalposts have moved and with it the game. Our Lib Dem MPs should take this on board and do the right thing and vote against allowing the removal of the cap. This is how we show we mean to give a Fairer Deal for Students.

There is now a Facebook Group called Lib Dems Against Scraping the Cap, in which I have joined other PPCs, AMs and others.

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