New concessions ahead of fees vote


Nick Clegg said all of his party's ministers would be voting for the fees rise

Ministers have offered a series of concessions to critics of the Government’s higher education reforms as the coalition sought to head off a major backbench rebellion.

Ahead of Thursday’s crunch Commons vote, Business Secretary Vince Cable announced further measures designed to ease the financial burden on students from poorer backgrounds.

They included increasing the number of part-time students who would no longer face upfront tuition fees and increasing the threshold at which existing graduates have to start repaying their loans.

The move comes as Dr Cable and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg face a revolt among Lib Dem backbenchers intent on honouring a pre-election pledge to oppose an increase in tuition fees.

After a meeting with Lib Dem MPs on Tuesday night, Mr Clegg announced that all of the party’s ministers would be voting for the highly contentious rise in the vote.

Dr Cable acknowledged that the “enhancements” to the package were made in response to the concerns of universities, students and MPs.

National Union of Students president Aaron Porter said the latest announcement would not bring an end to the protests that have been seen over recent weeks.

“It doesn’t change the overall direction of travel here and, if anything, these are an admission from the Government that what they are trying to pursue is something that politicians and the general public at large are not comfortable with,” he told the BBC.

“The headlines, of course, are the withdrawal of £3 billion of funding and that cost being passed on to students, and that will not satisfy those on the streets that we have seen in recent weeks and I’m sure those that will continue to protest today and tomorrow.”

Mr Clegg has appealed to his 56 MPs to “walk through the fire” with him on the reform package, which will see some course fees treble to £9,000 a year.

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