Tuesday News Review

Opposition debate tempts Lib Dems

Ructions in the government over plans to raise university fees will be forced into the open today when Labour triggers a vote in the House of Commons that could bring about the first rebellion of the coalition. MPs will debate the plan to raise tuition fees to £9,000 a year asstudents stage their third and largest national demonstration against the plans. Last night the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, wrote to the head of the National Union of Students appealing to students not to distort the debate over fees, saying that many believe wrongly that they will have to pay fees immediately instead of when they graduate. Clegg warned of potentially “tragic” consequences whereby the poorest would be put off applying at all. Coalition MPs are under a three-line whip to attend the opposition day debate on a Labour-authored motion that falls short of opposing higher fees, but calls for the white paper on the future of universities to properly explain the plans before the Commons votes on the fee cap. – The Guardian

Nick Clegg has urged students to reflect on the “true picture” about government plans to raise tuition fees. Ahead of further expected protests on Tuesday, the deputy prime minister said graduates in England on lower incomes would be better off than they are now. It was “crucial” people realised there will be no upfront fees and repayments will begin at £21,000, he told the National Union of Students. Meanwhile, fellow Lib Dem Jenny Willott said she would vote against the plans. Ms Willott, MP for Cardiff Central, said she could not support plans to allow English universities to charge £6,000, almost double the current £3,290 cap, and up to £9,000 under certain conditions. – BBC

Mr Clegg appealed to the NUS to help ensure that those taking part in protests understood “the true picture” of the proposed reforms, which he insisted were fairer than the current system. “All of us involved in this debate have a greater responsibility to ensure that we do not let our genuinely-held disagreements over policy mean that we sabotage an aim that we all share – to encourage people from poorer backgrounds to go to university,” said the Liberal Democrat leader. The NUS has launched a “right to recall” campaign to force by-elections in seats held by Liberal Democrat MPs – including Mr Clegg – who signed a pledge to oppose increases in fees before the general election. Liberal Democrats secured a provision in the agreement forming the coalition Government that their MPs can abstain in the vote to increase fees, though it remains unclear whether the party’s ministers will do so. But Lib Dems are expected to vote against a Labour motion in the Commons on Tuesday which calls on ministers to delay legislation on the fees hike until after they have published a White Paper spelling out their vision of the future of higher education. – PA

The jobless recovery

Labour is to warn about the dangers of a “jobless recovery”, a day after figures suggested UK growth next year may not be as strong as first thought. Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Douglas Alexander will say ministers are “complacent” about employment returning to pre-recession levels. Job vacancies are lower than they were at the start of 2010, he will argue. Chancellor George Osborne has said the economic recovery is “on track” despite challenging global conditions. The independent Office for Budget Responsibility’ s (OBR) upgraded its 2010 growth forecast on Monday but lowered those for 2011 and 2012. – BBC

Osborne mocked Gordon (“no more boom and bust”) Brown, but often sounded like him. He even gabbled. As Labour MPs repeatedly reminded him, along with a handful of the sharper Tories whose questions the chancellor sidestepped, he is heavily reliant on resurgent business investment and booming exports to make his predictions work: the deficit shrunk, 1m more jobs, unemployment down from 8% to 6% by 2015. Some of this sunshine talk has the OBR’s qualified blessing, though a 6% annual rise in exports, not to mention 8% investment, sound very un-British even without the sharp fiscal tightening – lower spending and higher taxes – now under way. Yet no one has actually done it in such adverse circumstances, warned Alan Johnson in his response, which insisted that 2010’s resumed growth is on Alistair Darling’s account, not the coalition’s. Osborne is “in the casino, but has not yet spun the wheel”, Johnson told MPs. But Osborne has placed the coalition’s bet. The wheel is spinning, but has not yet stopped. In this casino it acquires fresh momentum and speeds up again: everyone wins. If only. – The Guardian

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