Nick Clegg faced strong criticisms in the House of Commons today on the Coalition government’s proposals to increase university tuition fees to up to £9,000 per year.
Harman, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, was standing in for leader Ed Miliband who was away on paternity leave after the birth of his son. The Deputy Prime Minister was similarly covering for David Cameron, who is currently abroad in China.
In heated Commons exchanges, Harman accused the Deputy Prime Minister of going back on his earlier commitment in April to campaign against tuition fees.
Suggesting that as the Deputy Prime Minister had previously said that tuition fees up to £7,000 would be “disaster”, she asked: “What would be his word to describe fees of up to £9,000?”
Harman suggested it was like when “you meet a dodgy bloke at fresher’s week and you do things you regret… [he] is being led astray by the Tories”.
The Deputy Prime Minister replied:
“This is an extraordinarily difficult issue… We have stuck to the wider ambition that going to university is done in a progressive way… [O]ur policy is more progressive than hers”
Clegg also criticised Harman in turn for, what he called, her “attempt to reposition the party as champion of students”, stating that the Labour Party had campaigned against tuition fees and top-up fees, and introduced them both.
Clegg accused the Deputy Labour Leader of “trashing” the Browne review which the Labour party had itself set up also attacked proposals for a graduate tax, the preferred option of Labour leader Ed Miliband, as unworkable.
The exchanges came soon after the National Union of Students announced that it was expecting “significantly more” than 24,000 students to march through London against cuts to higher education funding.
NUS president Aaron Porter has said: “We are taking to the streets in unprecedented numbers to tell politicians that enough is enough. We will not tolerate the previous generation passing on its debts to the next, nor will we pick up the bill to access a college and university education that was funded for them.”
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