Thursday News Review

Tuition fees vote

MPs are to vote on controversial plans to raise tuition fees in England on 9 December, ministers have confirmed. The vote will be a critical test for the coalition, which has faced mass protests over its plan to nearly double fees to £6,000 and allow charges of up to £9,000 for some courses. The Lib Dems have come under heavy pressure after pledging before the election not to support any fee rise. Ministers insist the proposals are fairer than the current system. But student leaders say the proposals – which followed the independent Browne review of student finance – will deter people from poorer backgrounds from applying to university. – BBC

The National Union of Students has announced plans for further mass student protests on the eve of a crucial Commons vote on university tuition fees. The union has called for students across the country to begin demonstrations on 8 December. A further rally by students and union officials is planned on the day of the vote before the group lobbies MPs inside Westminster in an effort to persuade them against voting for a rise in fees. NUS president Aaron Porter said: “MPs can be left in no doubt as to the widespread public opposition to these plans or of the consequences of steamrollering them through parliament.  “For the third time in less than a month thousands of students have taken to the streets to protest against the government’s attacks on further and higher education. He added: “Despite repeated dismissals by Nick Clegg that these are uninformed protesters, students are intelligent, articulate people who are not being listened to by those in whom they placed their hope for a different politics.” – The Guardian

Cameron U-turn on school sports

David Cameron was in retreat last night over the Government’s plans to cut funding for school sports following protests from top athletes. Ministers were facing a backlash against moves to scrap the £162m fund targeted on boosting sports standards in English schools. Critics warned that the move would threaten after-school clubs and cost the jobs of sport coaches and PE teachers – just as London staged the 2012 Olympics. Mr Cameron signalled a rethink over the plans yesterday, saying he was looking “very carefully” at the issue and planned to make an announcement soon. Downing Street acknowledged that there had been concern “at local level” about the move and said that Mr Cameron had asked the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, to look again at the decision. – The Independent

Calls for King’s head

There were calls last night for Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, to give evidence to a parliamentary inquiry after the Conservatives claimed he sided with them during the talks leading to the formation of the coalition government. Tristam Hunt, a Labour member of the political and constitutional reform select committee, said he had written to Graham Allen, its chairman, to ask King to give evidence. Allen said he would take soundings from committee members tomorrow. Hunt said today: “In light of the revelations in WikiLeaks and the Guardian, I believe King should give evidence to the committtee to clarify what role he believes a governor should play in the formation of coalitions, as well as what specific role he did play in May. This is not a small matter and does deserve some serious analysis by a committee like ours.” Hunt added: “There is a danger that Mervyn King has compromised the independence of the bank in his role in the coalition talks. The whole ideological rationale behind this government is the necessity of cutting the deficit faster than the Labour government. King seems to have encouraged that view and so raised serious questions as to what his role should be as head of the bank”. – The Guardian

Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, faced a call for his resignation yesterday amid fresh claims that he has overstepped the mark by becoming embroiled in politics. Mr King’s neutrality was questioned after leaked US diplomatic cables revealed that he described David Cameron and George Osborne as “lacking experience”. He told the US ambassador in London in February that he had pressed the two at recent meetings for details on how they planned to cut the public deficit but “received only generalities in return”. Professor David Blanchflower, a former member of the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, said the leak showed that Mr King had tried to “co-author the Coalition’s strategy on the deficit”. He accused the Governor of breaking his own two rules – that the Bank should not comment on fiscal policy, or on party political matters. – The Independent

Expenses: IPSA under fire

MPs will line up today to deliver a vote of no confidence in the body set up to administer their expenses as the first tranche of claims since the election are published. Senior figures from all parties will give a damning verdict on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which was created in the aftermath of last year’s expenses scandal. IPSA has been beset with protests from MPs that the new system for submitting claims is complicated and cumbersome. IPSA staff have complained that they have been abused by politicians furious over the new system for reimbursing MPs’ expenses. Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg have acknowledged wide levels of disquiet with IPSA’s operation in its first few months and agreed that it needs to be improved. The body has also been instructed by John Bercow, the Speaker, to cut its £2.9m annual running costs towards the £2m spent by its predecessor. It will disclose details this morning of 22,000 claims made by 576 MPs between the election and the end of August; the remaining 74 MPs submitted no claims over that period. In future it will release information about their claims every two months. – The Independent

Those MPs elected for the first time in May deserve an apology. They played no part in the expenses scandal that so damned our legislature’s reputation, and was so effectively and painfully exposed by this newspaper. Nor can they take any of the responsibility for the ensuing “solution” – yet as a result, they are suffering just as much as their longer-serving colleagues. Today, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) publishes the first tranche of claims made since the election. At the same time, the Commons will meet to vent its fury and frustration with the body’s performance. A back-bench motion will demand that Ipsa gets its act together before next April, or face abolition. For it oversees an expenses system that was conceived in panic, legislated for in haste and has become defined by failure. – Tom Harris, the Telegraph

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