The Browne Report is published: Lib Dems begin to respond…

Well, The Browne Report is now out there, and you can read it below. Vince Cable will make a statement this afternoon setting forward the Coalition’s initial response. Meanwhile, the Lib Dems’ deputy leader Simon Hughes has just issued his reponse, as follows:

“All Liberal Democrat MPs are very conscious of the positions we have taken on higher education and the policies we campaigned for at the last election. We all have a duty to read and consider fully Lord Browne’s proposals and the Government’s response. Today will not be the last word on policy for funding higher education in England.

“All MPs should now engage constructively in questions, answers and debate in Parliament. We must also listen to the considered responses of our constituents and the wider public before we come to take our final personal and collective decisions on the best way forward.

“The test of any new scheme for organising and funding education and training for those over 16 must be whether we improve quality, increase opportunity for young people of all backgrounds and ensure a fair and progressive way of meeting the costs. It is important that government policy on higher education funding moves this country on from the present unfair tuition fee system.

“Parliament should only support a progressive system which takes into account future earnings and makes sure that those who benefit most financially from a university education contribute the most. And we must never forget that high-quality apprenticeships and training for all those who choose not to go to university are equally important objectives for a successful 21st century Britain.”

For those who want to read The Browne Report, you can view the summary here:

The Browne Report, Summary: An independent review of higher education & student finance in England.
(Also available here.)

Or you can read the ndocumernt in full here:
The Browne Report, in full: An independent review of higher education & student finance in England.
(Also available here.)

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33 Comments

  • david thorpe 12th Oct '10 - 1:08pm

    I strongly disgaree with this report. Im a very striong supporter of the coalition, and off the party leadership. But this issue could be breaking point for me.

  • Sounds like Nick Clegg has signed up to the proposal, Vince Cable is quite close behind him, closely followed by Simon Hughes.

    If LD MPs are going take their pledge back to and re-consider it – can we take our vote back for re-consideration?

  • @david thorpe

    You surprise me David. I was wondering whether it would be you or Iain Roberts, who would be first to publish an article, claiming this to be well within the great Liberal tradition.

  • It will be a disgrace if the parliamentary party support this. The coalition agreement allows for abstention on the vote. There is no purpose served by breaking serious pledges made before the election when the coalition agreement already recognised this as a point of difference. I am completely puzzled at Clegg’s positioning on this.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 12th Oct '10 - 1:56pm

    “The coalition agreement allows for abstention on the vote. There is no purpose served by breaking serious pledges made before the election when the coalition agreement already recognised this as a point of difference.”

    The pledge was to vote against an increase in fees, though. They’d still be breaking it if they abstained.

  • phil harris 12th Oct '10 - 1:59pm

    Must be great being a Lib Dem student who campaigned because they actually believed that Lib Dem MP’s would actually do as they pledged.

    If Lib Dem MP’s don’t vote the right way they won’t be there next time – will they ?
    It’s also the sort of issue that will stick with them for many years to come.

  • Darren Reynolds 12th Oct '10 - 2:11pm

    Education benefits all of society, and it benefits society by a greater amount, considered in the round, than the benefit to the individual. It seems reasonable then for society as a whole, on recognising this, to want to fund it. I certainly do.

    But we have promised to abstain.

    Ah well, hold on a minute. The Tories have already shown that the Coalition Agreement is merely a starting point for a negotiation. That’s why there are no directly elected health boards in the Health White Paper, despite the commitment in both the Lib Dems’ party policy and the Coalition Agreement.

    Therefore, the promise to abstain, being contained as it is in the Coalition Agreement, is also merely a starting point for negotiation.

    So, there is no reason at all why we couldn’t vote against. And if we do that, Hallelujah, a sensible decision for the future of humanity and a new generation of Lib Dem supporters.

  • Liberal Democrats have gone from highs of 23 in the polls down to just 12.

    As I said in another thread.

    “There are Tories on one side of the party who regard the Lib Dem coalition with profound cynicism. They have only signed up to it because they thought it was vehicle for winning power and plan over time to destroy the Lib Dems and try to create the circumstances for a single party Tory government”

    in my opinion the polls are showing this is already happening.

    Libdems have been forced/bullied by conservatives to give way on almost all of their policies that where in their manifesto. They are being forced to support Conservative policies that they dont necessarily believe in.

    All resulting in making the Libdems look weak and insignificant.

    And what will the repercussions of that be?

    Once the Tories believe they have destroyed enough of the Liberal Democrats support, they will attempt to get parliament dissolved and seek re-election as a majority Government.

    Putting Liberal Democrats back to where they where as a party 50 years ago.

    If you can’t see what’s going on already then there is seriously something wrong with you all.

    You have time and the opportunity to change all this though.

    Yes I have decided to change my support back to Labour, But I believe I have a right to post my concerns to you all. I voted Liberal Democrats at the last election, so I will shout and scream at them, when I see them doing things I don’t agree with!

  • LibDem ministers can not seriously vote against this and still remain in coalition government. It was these very same ministers who said that the national emergency, that is the deficit, was the reason for putting the national interest before party interest. Hence the need to join the Tories in coalition government. These very same ministers, and their supporters, have constantly said that compromises have to be made, and decisions taken that may be disagreed with, but supported none the less. To now jettison the national interest in favour of party interest, will not display well to the electorate at large. They could ask themselves if they are prepared to act out of self interests, why were they not prepared to act in the interest of others, when they supported measures that they claimed not to like, but were doing in the national interest.

    If fees are raised, no amount of spin will prevent this from being the death knell for the LibDems.

  • Andrew Shuttlewood 12th Oct '10 - 2:40pm

    I’m a recent lib dem member, and I think this is utterly moronic.

    I remember seeing Paddy Ashdown tell an old lady who asked what the Lib Dems plan for healthcare was that he saw education as more important.

    And it is, and for the Tories who only maintain their stance on not cutting the NHS for political reasons to not realise that this is a hugely destructive policy for the Lib Dems who at the very least should maintain the status quo is disasterous.

    There are many alternative policies that would decrease the costs of teaching rather than just rapidly inflating fees – we do not want an American style university system where children are saddled with ludicrous debts to get an education that helps the country as much as them.

  • The way I see it. Liberal Democrats still have some punch left in them, if they decide to use it properly.

    Although LD are trailing in the polls at the moment. The conservatives will not have gained enough support or confidence yet to win a Majority Government.

    Therefore as long as LibDem Mp’s stick to their election promises and VOTE NO to increases in tuition fee’s and prevent this bill from passing in the House of commons. I do not believe Cameron would have the confidence himself, or of his party to regard the No Vote as breaking a coalition agreement and dissolving parliament to go to the electorate again.

    If Conservatives where to lose this bill, It would be a clear sign to them that they can not bully Libdems in this coalition and it would also send a message to the public that Libdems do have some backbone and they will stand up for what is right and what they believe in.

    I think it would favour libdems in the polls, and would also put them in a better stance to fend of future attacks that will be coming there way in the future from Tory back benchers

  • Fred Fletcher 12th Oct '10 - 2:55pm

    Here is a solution:

    Abolish fees and instead impose a graduate tax subject to a lifetime maximum contribution.

    Students won’t take out a loan. Instead, the state pays the university directly, and each student ends up with a graduate tax account at HMRC. They pay the graduate tax through the payroll system until they reach the lifetime maximum, or they can make voluntary contributions to bring down the outstanding balance.

    The latter will be very helpful to universities, as it would provide an instant cash lump sum rather than a slow trickle of income.

  • Let’s be clear here.
    Those MPs who decide to keep their promises and vote against student fee rises cannot be faulted for keeping their word while those who abstain or even vote for it are going to get crucified.
    Pretending it’s not an issue, hoping the cuts announcement will drown it out or simply never speaking of it again after the vote will not work. Anyone facing these hideously expensive fees will be looking for someone to blame and Osborne has manouvered Nick and Vince front and centre to look like complete fools and take the blame for this with a little help from Osborne’s friends in the right wing press.

    If Liberal Democrat MPs meekly trot this through then they must know that they can kiss goodbye to the votes of anyone who considers the cost of student tuition fees important and believed Nick and the MPs promises. Those pledge pictures will be used as lethal ammunition by our opponents and the right wing press from now until the next election. The public’s trust in the Liberal Democrats will take a precipitous drop and a lot of people really are going to walk away.

    Nick has made so many tactical errors already it saddens me, but hardly surprises me, that he looks ready to throw himself under the Conservative bus yet again. But I thought Vince was smarter than this. If he votes this through his speech at the conference will be proved to be little more than hollow words and posturing.

    I’ve heard 30(ish) MPs still plan to vote against the fees so we may still salvage some credit and dignity from this farce yet, but Nick is becoming a serious liability. It’s not just a case of him being far too right wing and way too close Cameron any more. This whole sorry episode is putting a question mark against his basic competence and judgement as a politician.

  • What we shouldn’t lose sight of here is that extra money is needed to fund universities because the coaltion government is cutting university funding leaving the shortfall to be made up by future graduates.

    We have to look at the basics and decide whether a cut in public funding is the correct course and, if so, what the correct level is.

    That is the starting point and must be decided politically in Parliament before we get emeshed in fees v graduate tax solutions and what is progressive or not.

    One thing that truly alarms me is the removal of the fee cap and I really think, if enacted, this will destroy the increasingly embattled concepts of fairness and equality that manage to just hang-on at the top of our university system as rampant market forces propel us inexorably into an American funding model for entry into the top unis.

    As a Labour Party supporter who went to university in the late 60’s with a grant – for current students who don’t know what that means – the government paid me to go and paid my fees as well 🙂 and I find it almost impossible to support the increasing burden of debt being proposed for future graduates.

    I came from a single-parent, working class background and was the first-ever to go to uni from both sides of my family. I did well in life and paid higher rate tax for 70 per cent of my working life and never had to claim any benefits unlike many of my peer group from the scheme with a poorer education who were more exposed to the vagaries of low-paid employment.

    Most importantly my three children have all gone to university and one has a PhD. I doubt anyone who hasn’t come from a dirt-poor background can ever understand just how much pleasure it gives me to know that my children got to university on merit and weren’t educationally discarded because they couldn’t afford to go.

    I should have mentioned that I wasn’t able to go yo uni straight from school but went to work for five years so I could get the maximum mature students grant so I could continue to financially help my mother whose health had broken down.

    Could I do as well today if I was starting over? I would like to think so but I most probably would skip university as being just too expensive and problematic in terms of a return on my investment.

    I think the lost talent we could face as a country is enormous and LibDem MPs have to be very vareful what they do as I doubt if the electorate will be forgiving of any backtracking or weasel words on progressive measures. And those who abstain from a vote like this don’t deserve to remain an MP. I can more respect someone who stands up and votes for what they believe in than a coward although I concede that many who signed the NUS pledge must now regret the fact they came off the fence to pick up votes which they are unlikely to retain unless they vote against the Tory ideology which seems to be at work.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 12th Oct '10 - 3:02pm

    “I’m reasonably optimistic that he’ll rip this Blairite trash up and actually implement a better system for both lecturers and students”

    He’s already said he thinks the report is “broadly on the right lines,” so that hardly seems likely!

  • Matt,

    “Putting Liberal Democrats back to where they where as a party 50 years ago.”

    At that time (or around that time anywhere) the entire Liberal Parliamentary Party could fit into the back of a taxi. My first thought when I heard about the possibility of Lib Dem MPs voting to remove the fees cap was, “back to the Taxi then.”

    We need to demonstrate that we are getting something out of this coalition. Raising the income tax threshold was important and progressive and distinctively Lib Dem, but it wasn’t a headline grabber. It didn’t scream “LIB DEMS DELIVER!” in the way that scrapping fees would. Even if we can’t scrap fees altogether (and a number of recent events have left me open minded on that, something that I never thought that I would write) we must, Must, MUST ensure that they are paid in a progressive and fair manner and that they are not prohibitive.

    Above all, we must not allow an American-style free market in higher education. After all, the Liberal Democrats exist to ensure that no one is enslaved by poverty, not to cut off the only means of escape.

  • @Huw Dawson

    “There’s currently a good debate going on on the private Lib Dem only forum here, so if you’re a LD please consider checking it out. No spit-gargling haters on there! ”

    It is precisely comments like that why the LibDems are beginning to lose support from the electorate.

    There has been a distinct lack of response in the last couple of weeks from Lib Dem Mp’s in regards to Benefit Cut’s Tuition Fee’s etc.

    It is though the party have pulled the shutters down and are keeping the public from knowing what’s going on with the party and where the party truly stands on these policies.

    Your comments showing the same applies to party activists on this site only reiterates that point.

    Lib Dems Need to start being more vocally active on these issues and letting the public know where they stand on these measures not closing ranks.

    The more events unfold the more this coalition government starts to look like a farce.

    Things are certainly starting to become clearer to the average Joe.

    It would seem the only reason that SO MANY Libdem mp’s where given ministerial roles in the Government was to prevent them from voting against Tory policies and only giving them the option to Abstain from the vote.

    Leaving only 20 Liberal Democrat MP’s Free to vote NO,

    Cameron basically ensured by giving all those Liberal Democrat Mp’s jobs within Government his Policies would always pass through parliament.

    And Liberal Democrats still want to maintain their keeping their parties Identity? I don’t think so and it’s a poor time for democracy!

  • @Anthony Aloysius St
    Yes, it is that comment from Nick that has tipped the balance for me from hoping he might just be biding his time and fighting a rearguard battle, to realising he was preparing to cave in yet again as he always does.

  • Liberal Eye 12th Oct '10 - 3:25pm

    If MPs break their pledge the Party is toast.

  • All in all, taking everything into consideration, I think the grass roots have been well and truly screwed over.

  • @Fred Fletcher

    And how do we ensure that EU students pay, and those who chose to work overseas after graduating. Is the tax payer supposed to cover those liabilities?

  • Richard Hill 12th Oct '10 - 4:24pm

    I like it. Taking everything into account this seems like the best way forward for now. Once we get the economy sorted we can revisit the issue.

  • I would urge everyone with a Liberal Democrat MP to find what their MP said in their election pledges and post them all on here for us all to see. And let them see that we intend on holding them to their word.

    This is what my Mp said. Simon Wright Mp for Norwich South. on March 2nd 2010

    “Simon Wright, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Norwich South, has signed a pledge to voters ahead of the forthcoming general election that he will vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament. In addition, Mr Wright said that as an MP he will oppose all tuition fees for students.

    Mr Wright said: “There’s no doubt that bright young people in Norwich are wary of the thought of five-figure debts if they choose to go to university. Everyone deserves the chance to gain the knowledge and skills that will give them the best opportunity to achieve their ambitions in life, and it shouldn’t be based on ability to pay.

    “I’m absolutely committed to doing all that I can if I’m elected as a member of parliament for Norwich to stop the government raising tuition fees and actively campaign for them to be abolished altogether.”

    sourced from
    http://www.simonwright.org.uk/news/000147/candidates_pledge_against_student_fees.html

    Simon I am looking to see how you vote on this!

  • This is what I voted for:

    * What We Stand For
    o Education
    Liberal Democrats are the only party which believes university education should be free and everyone who has the ability should be able to go to university and not be put off by the cost.

    Our 6 point timetable for scrapping tuition fees:

    Year
    Action
    1
    Scrap fees for final year full-time students
    2
    Begin regulating part-time fees
    3
    Part time fees become regulated and fee loans become available to part time students
    4
    Expand free tuition to all full-time students apart from first year undergraduates
    5
    Expand free tuition to all part-time students apart from first year undergraduates
    6
    Scrap tuition fees for all first degree students.

    NOT A GRAD TAX; NOT AN INCREASE; SHAME SHAME SHAME.

    The final nail in the coffin. RIP Trust RIP Lib Dems.

    This is not a compromise, it’s political suicide.

  • @Richard Hill These sort of changes aren’t easily reversed. Once the economy is sorted out, the Lib Dems won’t be in government if the trust of voters is lost.

    I remember a guy at college who always bought everyone’s drinks at the pub – he’s was always invited but no-one respected him. Capitulating to the Tories at every turn is no way to be in a coalition. What’s the point??

  • At the last election I came close to voting libdem. Thank god I didn’t.

    I had thought New Labour had demonstrated a level of political whoredom unsurpassable in my lifetime. I was wrong. Prior to the election Clegg and 56 libdem MPs signed a pledge , (witnessed by the media) , wiith the NUS to oppose any increase in fees. They offered us a manifesto declaring an absolute intent to scrap all fees.

    Now we will see exactly how resilient libdem honour is. For Godsake they signed what amounts to a contract in exchange for votes . Now it seems we will see handwringing , cringeworthy excuses for why they allow a tory government policy to win through.
    Even if they abstain , they spit on anyone who believed their pre-election politics of promise. This coalition will damn LibDems to the political wildnerness , possibly forever, The main reason they dwindled as a serious party after Grimond was not a bit of scandal. It was an increasing lack of credibility caused by poorly defined identity. Few of us actually knew , less could discern , what they stood for.
    Now it seems we do know, clearly . They stand for Conservative policies rather than their own.
    They stand for the concept that a job in governement is worth turrning every Libdem supporterr into pimps and ponces as the parliamentary party whores itself out.

    These are sad days for Liberal politics in the UK.

    Please remove your hats as witness the passing of libdem credibility. That huddled , shamed, wizened shadow of its former self, tagging along at the rear of the cortege is Gladstone’s ghost,

  • “I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative”.

    What we do says who we are, well are the Lib Dem MPs men and women of principle or are the unpricipled imposters? If the Lib Dems vote for this they are finished.

  • Some Lib Dem MPs have already come out and said they will be sticking to the pledge they made at the General Election. Ministers may be able to abstain (or just not turn up) under the coalition agreement. Vince is stuck with it probably. But the arithmetic of the commons is such that even if every Lib Dem voted against, it would almost certainly pass anyway.
    Labour are also having problems over this issue- in the “red” corner Mr Ed with his graduate tax, and in the “blue” corner his newly appointed shadow chanceller with his NO to graduate tax.

  • Not a problem for Labour – oppose the Government motion, all EM needs to impose it a three line wip and that should do the trick. Regardless of this, will the Lib Dems keep their pledge to the British people?

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