Clegg backs graduate tax in Telegraph interview

Credit where credit is due, today’s Telegraph interview with Nick Clegg covers a range of substantive policy issues and gives the Deputy Prime Minister the space to give nuanced answers where the question requires them.

The biggest story is Clegg’s clear steer on a graduate tax as the way to square financial demands with the party’s dislike of tuition fees:

While David Willetts, the universities minister, said this week that it was for Lord Browne’s ongoing study to recommend increased tuition fees or a tax, Mr Clegg comes down firmly for the latter. “[Poorer] children are very intimidated by levels of debt. That is why I and my party have always been critical of tuition fees. The tricky bit is finding a progressive way [under which] the graduate who goes into the City pays a different contribution to someone who enters low-paid social work and that the money goes back to universities rather than into Treasury coffers.”

But some form of graduate payback is, he confirms, the preferred option. “It’s one we think is acceptable. The perception of [tuition fees] is that it imposes a wall of debt as you walk through the entry gates of university. This has a chilling effect on applications. It sends a signal which seems to be discouraging.”

Mr Clegg acknowledges “workability” problems, adding: “We’re genuinely waiting for Lord Browne to try to work through the problems. But the signal I’m sending to you is that we will look very kindly at a system that is fair, progressive and encourages students from [poorer] backgrounds to apply.”

This sounds a ringing endorsement of a graduate tax. “As soon as you mention a tax, people go a bit loopy,” he says. “It’s saying that students make a contribution, but we’re not going to do it in a way that stops students applying, and we’re going to make it dependent on how much benefit you get from going to university.”

Clegg is also asked about Simon Hughes’s recent comments, pithly reported on The Voice by Stephen as Simon Hughes states the bleedin’ obvious, sparks news media frenzy

“I would gently remind those colleagues who have misgivings that Coalition politics is the different politics we have advocated in the past.” Is that a rebuke to Simon Hughes, the Left-leaning Lib Dem deputy leader, who has suggested a backbench veto option for Coalition policies?

“No. To be fair to him, if he said the weather was cloudy, there would be headlines about Simon Hughes casting a shadow over the Coalition. He was saying that if you do something very big outside the Coalition agreement, then of course MPs must have their say.”

Nick Clegg also used the interview to reinforce the party’s scepticism on TridentL

Mr Clegg casts doubt on whether the £20billion renewal scheme will ever happen. “As Deputy Prime Minister, I’m committed to the replacement of the deterrent, but I will continue to argue for the alternatives, and there are alternatives. We’ve set up a value-for-money study to see if there are ways of doing it which don’t cost the earth, and I’ll see what that comes up with.’’

As for Philip Green, whose appointment resulted in public criticism from several Liberal Democrat MPs, Nick Clegg’s answer is starkly minimal:

Sir Philip’s role as the Coalition “cuts tsar” sits uneasily with Mr Clegg’s promise of a crackdown on tax avoidance. Did he know of the appointment? “It was all done by the right government procedures. I was away on holiday.”

Read more by or more about , , , , , , , , , or .
This entry was posted in News.
Advert

3 Comments

  • Of course if you are rich when you go to univ, and become a social worker, you pay a lot in grad tax, even though you got very little benefit from univ. I understand progressive taxation, I understand fees, but I am really struggling with a grad tax…

  • I only hope Mr Clegg feels obliged to press for a graduate tax becuase of the manifesto commitment. If I felt he really believed it was the best solution then I would despair even more about the abilities of our Ministers. That said, it’s a pity we are already seeing Cabinet Ministers putting party before country.

    In passing, there never seems to be evidence cited for the statement that “[Poorer] children are very intimidated by levels of debt”. First, are these [unidentified] children aware that they don’t have to repay their student loans until they are earning over a threshold? Second, wd they be any less deterred by a graduate tax? Or is Mr Clegg basing this on the fact that, compared with him and his fellow Westminster School pupils, just about everyone is poor and must be intimidated, the poor little people?

    And isn’t it a bit old school to call 17~18 year olds “children”?

  • Tim – it sounds like you are indeed struggling to understand graduate tax!

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDavid Evans 14th Dec - 1:08am
    David Warren, Indeed you are right. Unfortunately our MPs have a reputation of putting looking after the Conservatives ahead of looking after our Voters and...
  • User AvatarGlenn 13th Dec - 10:53pm
    Frankie Spell my name right and learn what a nuanced response is. The term hardliner refers to someone with unbending beliefs and a refusal to...
  • User Avatarexpats 13th Dec - 10:31pm
    Paul D B 13th Dec '18 - 9:40pm..........People should not be apologists for the Labour Party. They created the free-loading loosely regulated conditions (in parallel...
  • User AvatarSean Hyland 13th Dec - 10:29pm
    Paul D B - note that i was not apologising for Labour. Just saying to correct your initial post that they caused the 2008 crash....
  • User Avatarexpats 13th Dec - 10:20pm
    David Raw 13th Dec '18 - 9:10pm @ expats. Come on old lad, that Boris is a real hard man who learned his trade in...
  • User AvatarSean Hagan 13th Dec - 10:14pm
    @Yeovil Yokel: As Commons Speaker, John Bercow does not currently sit as a Conservative MP, so was not amongst the 317 who had a vote...