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New student fees bill must be stopped, say Lib Dems

January 8, 2004 12:00 AM

Commenting on today's publication of the Government's Bill to introduce top-up fees for students, Carshalton and Wallington Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake said:

"This Bill must be defeated. The Government are trying to make access to higher education dependent on the ability to pay, when it should be on the ability to learn.

"These plans are likely to mean that many of our brightest local students would no longer be able to afford a university education. It makes a mockery of the Government's claim to be widening opportunities."

Sutton and Cheam MP Paul Burstow added,

"Rather than placing the burden on students starting out in life - many of whom will be taking up socially very valuable, but relatively poorly paid, jobs such as teachers and junior NHS staff - we should ask those earning super salaries to pay a little more through a 50p tax rate on their earnings over £100,000 each year. This would raise enough to scrap all tuition fees and reintroduce grants of up to £2000 for students from low income backgrounds, as well scrapping charges for long-term care for the elderly and cutting council tax. Surely this would be a fairer way forward?"

Mr Brake and Mr Burstow are calling on Conservative and Labour supporters to join Liberal Democrat MPs in opposing the Bill and campaigning for all tuition fees to be scrapped.

Mr Brake said, "The Conservatives said they would vote against the Bill, but then Conservative leader Michael Howard admitted that the Tories have no alternative policy for funding higher education, and said he refused to rule out anything, even supporting top-up fees. Many Conservatives are on record as backing top-up fees. Until the Tories get their position straight people will continue to be concerned about whether they cannot be relied upon to join the Lib Dems in the division lobbies to oppose the Bill."

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