Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable is “personally committed” to plans to raise university tuition fees, a coalition minister has said.
David Willetts, the Conservative Universities Minister in Mr Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, said he was “confident” Mr Cable would vote for the measure when it comes before the Commons next month.
However, he refused to be drawn on whether he expected Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and other Lib Dem ministers to follow suit.
Mr Clegg has said the Lib Dems are considering abstaining on the measure, in line with the terms of coalition agreement.
The party pledged during the general election campaign to oppose any increase in tuition fees and Mr Clegg has been the target of much of the student anger over the coalition’s decision to put them up.
Nevertheless, Mr Willetts said he expected Mr Cable would back the measure – which will see maximum fees treble to £9,000-a-year – in the Commons vote.
“Vince as the Secretary of State is personally committed to these proposals,” he told Sky News.
“Indeed, he has played a crucial role in shaping them, in making them as progressive as they are. So I am confident that Vince would be voting for these proposals.”
But pressed on whether Mr Clegg would also vote for them, Mr Willetts would not be drawn. “I think we must allow this decision to the Liberal Democrats and they are clearly having their own discussions, as they are absolutely entitled to do,” he said.
However, he stressed the Lib Dems had won important concessions, designed to make the system more progressive. “I think there are many Liberal Democrats who will recognise that these are proposals that have been shaped to be as progressive as possible,” he said.