Paul Burstow writes… Labour shouldn’t play party politics with the NHS

On Saturday I gave a guarantee to every party member that I, along with other Liberal Democrat members of the Government would listen to every word that you had to say. I completely stand by that. If there are ways in which we can amend the Health and Social Care Bill then we will work to do it. But what we won’t do is to allow our Spring Conference to be hijacked and used as a political tool by Labour. And that’s exactly what they tried to do today.

Today was one of Labour’s designated days in Parliament when they are able to choose the topic of debate. Rather unsurprisingly they chose the NHS. Fair enough, you might think. And it would have been if they had decided to debate the policy instead of the politics. But instead, as Andrew George rightly pointed out during the debate, Labour did the NHS a disservice tonight by using it to play party politics.

Labour’s motion contained a less than subtle reference to “the concerns expressed by the Liberal Democrat party Spring Conference”. It even included a reference to the “damaging and unjustified market-based reorganisation“, which many of you will recognise as the exact language taken from the amended motion that was passed by Spring Conference this weekend. Finally they “urged the Government to halt the implementation of the reorganisation and pause the progress of the legislation”.

Given Labour’s obvious attempt to recreate our own conference motion, many of you will be asking why we didn’t vote in favour. The answer is because although there are similarities, it isn’t our conference motion. Our motion called for “Liberal Democrats in Parliament to amend the Health Bill”. Labour’s motion wasn’t put down to help amend the Bill, but instead to drive a wedge in the coalition. That’s not what conference voted for. They voted to strengthen and improve the Bill; not for Labour grandstanding.

The amendments we tabled two weeks ago to close a loophole introduced by the previous Labour Government, which allowed private providers to be paid more than those from the public sector, demonstrates that we are prepared to listen to concerns and to act on them. I wanted to write this article to reassure you that we will listen to concerns and seek to strengthen and improve the Bill. And that we will continue to do so. But we should be clear that this is not Labour’s aim. Their front bench let the cat out of the bag a few weeks ago when their Shadow Health Minister, Emily Thornberry, said in committee that “many of our (Labour) amendments seek to undermine the Bill entirely and in every way possible”. That is really what today’s debate was all about. Labour knowing what they are against but not knowing what they are for.

The creation of the NHS is a cherished part of the liberal story. It was a liberal, working in a Coalition, who first imagined the NHS and its values of healthcare available to all, free at point of delivery, based on clinical need, not ability to pay. Liberal Democrats in this Coalition will continue to listen, but also to act on your concerns to ensure that the future of the NHS continues to be a liberal story.

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  • It’s Labour’s fault the Thatcherite NHS reforms were rejected by rank and file Liberal Democrat delgates.

    Of course it was.

    And May will be Labour’s fault too.

  • I don’t sense much enthusiasm from Lib Dems for the proposed major reorganisation of the NHS either, nor (yes, this is ad hominem, I know) do I feel strongly that Andrew Lansley constitutes safe hands. Leaving activists, Conference, and grassroots aside, I heard Andrew George, hardly a Labour partisan, speak convincingly and compellingly against the changes in the Commons today.

    Do not use the fact that Labour (on this one issue) agrees with Lib Dems as a reason to ignore the will of the party membership.

  • Andrew Suffield 16th Mar '11 - 10:31pm

    Plausible. The bill still needs lots more work though.

  • In the absence of lots more work it’d be better not happening.

  • Stuart Mitchell 16th Mar '11 - 10:55pm

    If ever there were an issue where Labour SHOULD be “playing party politics”, it’s the NHS. They have been doing so to great effect for over 60 years and we all ought to be thankful for it.

    And how about this for a shocking revelation :-

    “Their front bench let the cat out of the bag a few weeks ago when their Shadow Health Minister, Emily Thornberry, said in committee that ‘many of our (Labour) amendments seek to undermine the Bill entirely and in every way possible’.”

    I think you will find that in this aim Labour are 100% in agreement with the BMA. Are the BMA just playing some sort of game, too?

    Remember last year when the government kept telling us that the people who know best how to run the NHS are the doctors who work in it? If that’s the case, then take their advice now and consign this rotten bill to the shredder.

  • Well there wasn’t much to listen to today from the LibDems in the debate. I reckon only Pugh, Mulholland and George made contributions. Hughes intervened a couple of times on others but didn’t make a contribution.

    OK so I was actually doing other things with the TV running in the background so I might have missed something ot someone but there wasn’t hordes of LibDems queuing up to speak. I really was surprised at how few LibDems were in the House.

    As to your own contribution well I know you’re listening and that’s what your Boss said as well. However I think it’s gone beyond listening, I think people want to know what action your are going to take.

    I wondered if the reports that GP pay under the new system will go up to £300K on average and that’s without any kind of kick-back from private companies. If that’s the case I doubt if there will be any doctors left in hospitals.

  • Ecojon: didn’t look like there were many in the house full stop; I’d estimate that the numbers were proportional to the number of MPs in each party, roughly speaking.

  • Of course you could take the wind completely out of their sails by getting the amendments in line with the expressed will of the party.

    Do that and they’ll look pretty stupid, don’t do it, go against your own rank and file and of course the boot will be firmly on the other foot.

  • Who is playing the party politics? Is the Burstow line a disguised way of conveying the message “Well, we would have liked to get Cameron to make changes, but, Labour demanded the changes as well , so of course, that provoked Cameron into saying no. So, it wasn’t us that wimped out. It was Labour wot spoilt it for us, honest injun….”

  • “If there are ways in which we can amend the Health and Social Care Bill then we will work to do it. ”

    That is a monumentally big if!

    The motion set out ways in which the HSCB can be amended so I have to ask, why you use the word “if” and what reasons are there why you might not be able to at least propose amendments?

  • Oh dear.

    Mr Burstow, there’s a reason why all of Labour (including Blairites like Alan Milburn), the LibDem rank-and-file, the vast majority of doctors, and now even some Tory MPs are against your proposals – it’s because your plans are incredibly dangerous, damaging, unfair and unnecessary. Are you really so breathtakingly arrogant that you think you and Lansley and Cameron and a few others are right, and everyone else is wrong?

  • – and more importantly – if you were still on the Opposition Benches, and the Tories were in government, and they proposed these exact plans, can you honestly say you would be supporting them?

  • @Adam

    Well there was the usual ebb and flow over all the parties I just thought that with the matter having been such a LibDem priority at the weekend and the members sending such a clear message to their MPs that more might have turned-up as only if they put pressure on will the worst bits of this bill be altered – obviously Labour can’t do it on its own.

    I’m not trying to make party points on the numbers just simply expressing honest surprise.

    If I had been out to make mischief I might have pondered on why it was some kind of shock horror surprise for Paul Burstow that Labour was out to destroy the bill through amendments. Labour are trying to look-out for the interest of those who vote for them.

    So they are opposing this Bill tooth and nail because we all know that the Tories see it as a licence to print money for their business chums. If the LibDem Parliamentart Party think that by playing some kind of nice civilised debating game that they will remove the toxic elements in this Bill well that’s up to them. One day they will realise what Tories are all about but it will most likely be too late when they do, However, not my problem.

    The Tories are too clever for you, you just don’t have the experience of playing poker at that level. Try and be clever with them and you will lose. The sensible thing to do is to slow the Bill down to closely examine the whole GP Commissioning thing and how that links to service providers in the private sector. That’s the area that really worries me and reports of GP pay possibly going up to an average of £300k pa on average is terrifying in terms of cost and how it will affect the whole salary structuring across the NHS.

    The problem yet again is too much too quick and I’m not taking about cuts – I’m talking about the legislation and too little consultation. I also am left cold at how the public can make these informed choices about their health care – fine if it’s an ingrowing toenail but when it is complex surgical or medical procedures how can a real informed choice be made about the best treatment or facility.

    As I have said before I want highly trained doctors and not just GPs but specialists talking me through my health probs and I want to hear their informed judgements and I want to be certain that they are not being influenced in any way by any financial considerations affecting the profit they make from me.

    Another huge area of concern for me is the lack of independent oversight of the GPs and their decisions and a real fear that within a very short time scale we will have terrible fragmentation and a Post Code Lottery effect worse than anything existing previously.

    And then there’s the whole area of how you actually prevent us going down the road of GPs becoming involved in provider companies and their service provision units for personal financial gain – I laughed my head off at a stupid Tory MP today who went almost apoplectic that anyone could even consider an up-standing GP could be capableof anything like that LMAO. If she truly is that naieve I’m sure the health lobbyists will already be beating a path to her door in droves.

  • I don’t know what worries me most, the end of the NHS or the end of the Lib Dems because it is a racing certainty that if this bill is passed without serious ammendment then it will be the end of the NHS which in turn will be the end of the Liberal Democrat party as we will rightly be blamed for the NHS demise. The demise of the Lib Dems will once again put the country in the position of having a two party system with the liklihood of both becoming more extreme resulting in the see-sawing politics of 2 – 3 decades ago.

    As someone who 3 years ago had bowel and kidney tumours removed under the NHS, I am terrified to think that my future health concerns will be in the hands of those whose only thought is how to increase their profits. Lansley and Cameron advise that GPs are in the best position to determine the treatment etc. that I and other patients should receive. If that is the case, why did my GP send me to hospital to enable the “experts” to treat me. I have full confidence in my GP but NHS decisions should be made by a consortium of GPs, consultants, nurses, radiologists etc. as well as some members of the public. All have a part to play not just GPs.

    Re the party, as I stated above, if , as I believe, these changes are catastrophic then

  • Please tell us what the plan of action in response to the Conference resolution is, Paul Burstow and all our MPs. Members and the public want to see LD MPs speaking up for party policy in the House. Each time you (MPs) bottle out, it is explained in terms of layers of maturity, sacrifice and complexity that just don’t exist. Didn’t you enter politics to cut through the hocus? Our party is supposed to operate in a way led by policy motions. Any tinkering round the edges of government is meaningless if MPs refuse to represent members on the big and most potentially damaging issues. They don’t come much more ‘life and death’ than the NHS.

  • Surely the point is that the policy Burstow had been supporting was overturned by the Conference. He was at odds with the views of his party. He should be in government fighting for them but he is implementing Lansley’s policy which wasn’t in the coalition agreement instead. He is no longer a Lib Dem, he is a Cleggite.

  • The “If” is the giveaway. “Well, we tried, and we won a concession on this, and a change of emphasis on that, which shows the influence Liberal Democrats are having in government, blah blah blah”. Our ministers and parliamentary party have got to show some backbone: I have spent my whole working life doing a job where I have earned a lot less than my potential because it enabled me to help the party I believed in. At local level where we have achieved power we have by and large done a good job, even in coalition, but our performance in government (with some exceptions) has not been impressive, and that “If” is pathetic.

  • @George Potter – Hear hear.

    It’s disappointing to see Paul Burstow decending to this kind of ‘anti’ politics. He is already severely damaged within the party by his collusion with Lansley. He is in a hole and should at least stop digging.

  • The shorter Paul Burstow – “I won’t do what conference said because the Labour party said it too.” How utterly immature! Paul, you are ruining the chances of many hard working LD council candidates around the country with your childish attitude. If you won’t do as conference asks then it would be better if you just joined the tories!

  • This makes you wonder what threats have been made behind closed doors to lib dem ministers.

    It also beggers belief that a Lib Dem would try and claim that the NHS was a liberal invention when it was very much the product of a Labour government and a Labour minister, and one who saw the tories for what they were.

  • Paul, I take issue with this statement:

    “Labour’s motion wasn’t put down to help amend the Bill, but instead to drive a wedge in the coalition. That’s not what conference voted for. They voted to strengthen and improve the Bill; not for Labour grandstanding.”

    What conference voted to fundamentally change the bill, not just amend it, and implicitly to kill it if those changes can’t be done – regardless of whether Labour’s playing party politics most of the party don’t like this policy either and it’s not in the coalition agreement. Whatever the reasons, we should be on side with them on this. Yes, Labour are playing party politics. Yes, they’re being hypocrites (PFI). No, the reasons why don’t matter. Our supporting Labour on this would put real pressure on the Tories to go back to the drawing board or withdraw the bill.

    Personally, I think that this legislation is ludicrous even without the privatisation elements – giving legitimacy to “alternative therapists” who would give snake-oil salesmen a bad name and placing budgetary control in the hands of GPs who aren’t involved in running of hospitals in any direct way. I would rather see it dead than amended. This is as a Lib Dem party member who supports the coalition, who accepted free schools because it was in the coalition agreement and who could see that our amendments to the tuition fees policy at least improved what would have otherwise been on offer. Also a biological scientist and someone who has had to use the NHS as a treatment for life-threatening disease. I doubt you read these messages but please, please, could the Lib Dems in government do all they can to get the (many) detestable elements of this bill removed, and if they cannot, can they vote against this shambles of a bill.

    I know I’m just inviting the trolls on this site to twist my words beyond recognition by being blunt about this, but this is seriously a big issue.

  • Not good enough Mr Burstow. It is you who is playing party politics. The Labour motion reflected the views of our LD conference, but you failed to support it because it was their motion, not yours. Shameful!

  • The Liberal Democrat rank and file expressed through conference their opposition to Lansley’s lunatic privatisation of the NHS but Paul Burstow defends the bill because Labour are opposed to it too. Amazing logic! Labour didn’t hi-jack your Spring conference — common sense did.

    GP commissioning is a cover for introducing competition red in tooth and claw into the NHS. GP consortiums will not be allowed to use their trusted local hospitals without first privately tendering because they will be afraid that private companies will take them to court, thus involving them in time consuming, stress producing litigation when they should be focussed on treating their patients. European competition law will force the tendering to be on a European wide basis, so foreign, cost cutting companies will be running our health service. Global health providing companies will run loss leaders and destroy state funded competition in those areas that can be cherry picked. Result? Hospitals will close. The NHS as we know it will disappear to be replaced by American style private companies and personal health insurance schemes. The main function of the regulator, Monitor, will be to enforce competition law and remove anti competitive behaviour. In cases where the NHS is the preferred provider that will be challenged in the courts or referred to the competition commission. A recipe for chaos.

    This reform was in no party’s manifesto at the time of the general election. It was not in the coalition agreement. There is absolutely no mandate for it. The House of Lords are therefore perfectly entitled to throw it out. If the Liberal Democrats want to go some way to redeeming themselves over tuition fees they must vote against this bill at every opportunity. That’s what they should have done yesterday when Labour’s motion gave them the opportunity.

  • @Paul Burstow who said: ‘The creation of the NHS is a cherished part of the liberal story. It was a liberal, working in a Coalition, who first imagined the NHS and its values of healthcare available to all, free at point of delivery, based on clinical need, not ability to pay.’

    I just wonder who the liberal was. There were many people from all political parties and none who had the dream of an NHS or a step on the road probably for at least 50 years before it became a reality. And the dream is as important as the reality because without it the poor and disadvantaged would be anchored forever in the morass of despondency and despair and ill-health.

    One of the biggest problems that Labour had in establishing the NHS was the greed of GPs who had to be ‘bribed’ to take part by not becoming employees but remaining self-employed businessmen most of whom were Tories. It’s one of the reasons I remain distrustful of the even greater power they are now being granted without scrutiny from publicly-elected councillors.

    And as to the NHS being safe in Tory hands I well remember the state of chaos the NHS had descended into through Tory neglect and indifference before Labour took office. I would think everyone in the UK of a certain age will have personal experience of it or at least family experience.

    Of course a lot of younger politicians have no conception of life before the NHS or how it was almost destroyed the last time the Tories controlled it.

    That is why younger LibDem MPs. especially Ministers, should listen to older party members and then perhaps they might come to understand why there is such fear in the country about the Tory proposals – they are not designed for the health of the general public but for the wealth of the few.

  • Dominic Curran 17th Mar '11 - 11:34am

    Paul Burstow – please, please do more than ‘listen’. I know that the word is a sort of code for ‘i know what you’re saying but I can’t yet confirm how the response will play out’ but you need to take heed from party activists as well as others, as we are the ones who will not turn up to help your re-election campaign in 2015. What do you want – a Bill that embodies a Tory vision of the NHS and your early, enforced retirement in 2015, or to do the right thing by your country, your party and your career by getting the bill changed to meet LibDem demands? It’s your choice, and your job.

  • Mr Burstow how do you expect us to take you seriously when Cameron and Lansley are trumpeting all over the place about ‘ only minor changes to language’? Seriously, you need a wake up call and soon. They have no intention of taking Lib Dem policy seriously and frankly you have no proof that the motives for this are political and would do well to take the concerns of your own members seriously and get on with persuading the Tories that they do NOT have LibDem support on this – if anyone is playing political games it is you. Your standing in the UK is at a low – but it could be at an all time and terminal low if you blow this.

  • ‘The creation of the NHS is a cherished part of the liberal story. It was a liberal, working in a Coalition, who first imagined the NHS and its values of healthcare available to all, free at point of delivery, based on clinical need, not ability to pay.’

    And nowhere in that statement does it also say “and which must be provided by state employees”, does it?

  • Tony Greaves 17th Mar '11 - 1:59pm

    I wanted to write this article to reassure you that we will listen to concerns and seek to strengthen and improve the Bill.

    Well I’m sorry, Paul, but this article does not do what we, the party, want you to do. I accept you have listened. Anyone can listen and do sweet f.a. We do not want the Bill to be “strengthened” – in key parts we want it seriously weakened, in fact done away with altogether. If all we get is “reassuring wording” the party will revolt. Watch out for a special conference, perhaps. I just do not get the feeling that the leadership (broadly defined) realise how important the issue of the NHS is in the party. Improved wording to “reassure” people will simply not be sufficient, in fact it will fan the flames of revolt. It’s an absolutely critical moment in the coalition.

    As for the Labour Party they are either incredibly cynical or incredibly stupid. Either way they do the cause of the NHS no good at all, and they make it more difficult for the Liberal Democrats in government to achieve serious changes. They could be quietly working with Liberal Democrats – instead they obviously don’t care whether they achieve changes to the legislation, all they want is a chance to make political attacks on Liberal Democrat MPs and the government, They are political gutterslime. (But we all knew that already didn’t we – after all it’s the Labour Party we have known and “loved” for all our political lives.)

    Tony Greaves

  • @ Andrew Tennant

    “with opposition largely mounted against a fictional strawman, of a free Market free for all, where cynical companies profit and the downtrodden sick pay, that never did and never will exist.”

    It will never exist will it? At the time I heard similar arguments adduced for supporting privatisation of the state owned utilities. Cynical companies haven’t profited in those industries at the expense of the poor and the economically stretched, have they? Course not. Cynical utility companies don’t keep increasing their charges even when energy costs fall, do they? Course they don’t. Parasitic shareholders and profiteers are only interested in the public good,aren’t they’ And they’ll always have their apologists in the party of capital to support them, won’t they?

  • Graham Winyard 17th Mar '11 - 4:00pm

    This is a slow motion train wreck. The problem with the Conference debate is that it by-passed the issue of whether it is sensible to restructure the NHS at the same time as it is expected to deliver greater savings than at any time in its history. It is hard to find anyone who understands the NHS who thinks that this can be achieved- all the serious think-tanks do not. Yet Ministers, including ours, press on regardless.
    There is every reason to think that the result of abolishing the key organisations responsible for financial control and strategic planning will be loss of financial control (!) and failure to achieve the major restructurings of service that will be essential to hitting savings targets. The Tories are not trusted with the NHS- but we should be- so who will be held responsible it the NHS does implode?
    And if anyone wonders where the growth will be, go to
    Graham Winyard

  • @Tony Greaves

    Well Tony you’re now getting the opportunity to know and love the Tories for what is left of the LibDem’s political life which may well be very short unless you stop propping up the Tories on dismantling the NHS and replacing it with a privatised health service.

  • Tony Greaves 17th Mar '11 - 4:45pm

    Silly comment. If you can’t join in this debate in a sensible way don’t bother.

    Tony Greaves

  • @Andrew Tennant

    As I suspected; anyone who9 disgrees with you simply doesn’t ‘understand’.
    What I don’t get is why you are in the lib dem party. After all on every issue you apparently support the Conservative policy over the policy of the liberal democrats. Is there any issues which you actually disagree with the Conservative party on?

  • I hope that Paul, as well as writing the article for LibDem Voice, will take the trouble to read our comments on it, and report back to the leadership. I won’t hold my breath though.

  • Stuart Mitchell 17th Mar '11 - 7:11pm

    Andrew Tennant: “To be fair to Paul, there were and are some major misperceptions about what the government policy was and is, with opposition largely mounted against a fictional strawman…”

    Back on Planet Reality, the bill is so monumentally appalling that the BMA want the whole thing scrapped. Not tweaked, scrapped.

    You are seriously deluding yourself if you believe that the only problem with this bill is the bad press it’s getting from “Labour and their media allies”.

  • Cllr. Nigel Jones 17th Mar '11 - 8:16pm

    I can understand Paul Burstow not wanting to support the Labour party ‘s position, if they are merely using us to try to get party political gain. However, I see nothing wrong with our MP’s making it clear that they agree with criticisms of the Health proposals no matter who is making them. I was very pleased that Ed was giving publicity to our motion by referring to it in Parliament.
    I hope also that Paul realises that the feeling within the party is for major changes to the proposals, not small amendments. At the heart of concern is the GP Consortia which should be completely replaced.
    I have just been out canvassing and two people who had been staunch Lib-Dem voters, said they were likely not to vote for us now, giving the Health proposals as an example of reasons, because in spite of the conference motion they had no confidence that our MP’s would fight to get them radically altered or thrown out. They said that the only way to get the leadership of our party to stand up and be counted on matters like this is to ensure a disastrous result for Lib-Dems in the local elections.
    Cllr. Nigel Jones
    Newcastle under Lyme

  • @Tony Greaves who said: ‘Silly comment. If you can’t join in this debate in a sensible way don’t bother’ after posting: ‘They (LP) could be quietly working with Liberal Democrats – instead they obviously don’t care whether they achieve changes to the legislation, all they want is a chance to make political attacks on Liberal Democrat MPs and the government, They are political gutterslime.’

    Defending the NHS in the face of the most serious political attack it has ever faced isn’t about quiet little conversations – it’s about saying NO to the Tories as LOUDLY as possible. LibDem MPs have either got to have the guts to do this or see their party destroyed.

    The LP doesn’t need to make attacks on the LibDem party as its own leadership does that day in and day out every time they support the Tories in another attack on the poor, disadvantaged and weaker sections of society and when they fail to speak out against naked Tory ideology.

    To actually say that the LP doesn’t want changes to the NHS legislation is actually so out of orbit I think it’s in another Universe. And as for being ‘political gutterslime’ I’m amazed that you want any support for them on AV – ak just realised that will be a secret guided weapon to destroy the LibDems.

    Keep watching out for the little green men – although if I was a LibDem I would be more worried about the orange ones and those lovely cuddly Tories that you seem to want to remain close to or at least closer than the gutterslime.

    Sad Sad Sad

  • @Andrew Tennant

    “, and I am concerned to preserve and promote opportunities for the most worse off.”

    Then why on earth are you supporting those who have declared war on public sector workers and those who rely on state benefits: the very people who are among the most worse off?

  • Stuart Mitchell 17th Mar '11 - 10:00pm

    @MacK: And as even the likes of Liverpool and Leeds universities announce £9,000 per year tuition fees (didn’t Clegg tell us only the elite universities would do that?), opportunities for the worse off are beginning to look in very short supply.

  • Even Alan Milburn, the most hardcore blairite has reservations about this NHS reform saying it would lead to fragmentation.

  • Stuart Mitchell 18th Mar '11 - 9:13am

    If @Andrew is allowed then I assume I am…

    Most poor people going to university will be doing so in the hope that it will help them to earn MORE than £21K.

    You say that people on average incomes will pay “about the same as now” but neglect to mention that they will be paying it for much longer. The government is basically copying the sales tactics of dodgy debt consolidation companies to try to make this policy sound palatable.

    Point 4 only makes sense if you assume that only poor people pay taxes and only rich people go to university. That is not the case – though check back in four years and it probably will be by then.

    If the outcome of this policy is that university participation rates drop in low and middle income families compared to wealthier families, will you change your mind?

  • Top of the league 18th Mar '11 - 9:35am

    “The government is basically copying the sales tactics of dodgy debt consolidation companies to try to make this policy sound palatable.”


    This is what I find most extraordinary about the Lib Dem spin on tuition fees. Yes – the monthly fayments will be less – but they will be for many more years, and the interest payable will be much more as a result.

    Wasn’t it sub=prime mortgage salespeople in the US with exactly the same spiel that created the GFC?

  • Stuart Mitchell 18th Mar '11 - 10:59am

    @Andrew – The bottom line is that the new fees represent an increase (over three years) from £9,870 to £27,000.

    Trying to prove that a £27,000 debt is better than a £9,870 debt is certainly an interesting intellectual exercise, but that’s all it is. It’s the fiscal equivalent of a flat earth map.

    You acknowledge that the only way to actually reduce your debt burden is to do so badly in your career that you don’t earn enough to pay it. There is nothing progressive about that, quite the opposite.

    Still, thank you for confirming that you will continue to support the policy even if it means that fewer people from poor backgrounds will go to university.

  • Stuart Mitchell 18th Mar '11 - 12:12pm

    Meanwhile anyone earning over about £25K pa (which most graduates will hope to do for the vast majority of their career) will find they are paying more than they would have done before. Not a problem if they come from a wealthy background; an horrendous amount of debt to carry around if they don’t.

    Perhaps what’s needed is for Carol Vorderman to front some adverts explaining to disadvantaged young people why a £27,000 debt isn’t such a bad thing. She has experience of selling this kind of scheme. And if they still don’t like it, then as you say, screw ’em. Viva social mobility!!

  • Dominic Curran 18th Mar '11 - 5:39pm

    @ Stuart

    I think you’re misrepresenting the argument Andrew puts. On what he says, people earning around 25k (the figure you use) will pay around the same amount as now for a similar period of time. it’s only the people on much higher incomes of c45k (if you call that high) who will in practice end up paying the full cost of their degree.

    and that is by definiton a progressive system.

    i’m curious what your solution would be, given that free higher education for 50% of the population is pretty expensive. My preferred solution would be to accept that 50% of people having degrees is bonkers, we should instead have technical schools like they have in Germany and should send perhaps only 25% of school leavers to university, and better fund them in the process.

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