So the Lib Dems are split three ways


          It is not that unusual for MPs in a governing party or coalition to be split three ways. Many votes have some government MPs voting against and some abstaining.

           What is unusual is for Ministers to be contemplating abstaining on their own policies! Indeed, that is against the rules. As I understood the Coalition Agreement,  the provision to allow Lib Dems to abstain on tuition fees only kicked in if Coalition Ministers could not reach agreement on the topic. As they demonstrably did reach agreement, around the proposals of a senior Lib Dem, there should be no question of Lib Dem Ministers abstaining. They are bound by collective responsibility.

         Coalition MPs are regularly divided over the issue of the EU. We have seen up to 37 Conservatives vote against – on the issue of the EU budget – and more abstain. Within the government there are also important differences of view. The Hagueites seem to want to give more powers to the EU, proposing the expansion of the diplomatic service, expansion of Criminal Justice powers and accepting a new Treaty to strengthen economic governance. The sceptics, like Liam Fox, Owen Paterson and Iain Duncan Smith presumably disagree with this approach and should be fighting to resist it from within the government.

             It is entirely healthy that there are disagreements within Cabinet over  big issues, and disagreements with the backbenches. What is the point of Cabinet government and Parliament if there we are not allowed to disagree and debate?  There has been a healthy debate on tuition fees, and doubtless some Lib  Dems will stick with the view they put to the electorate in May. Their Ministers have moved on and proposed a new policy to the government which it has accepted . It is now their duty to vote it through.


  1. lifelogic
    December 5, 2010

    Clearly the Liberals never expected to have to implement any of their manifesto so it was written solely with the intention of getting votes hence their problems now.

    Many university degrees are worth virtually nothing anyway so making people pay the cost will at least force people to think about what they are actually getting for their money.

    It is also difficult to see why courses other than those practical in nature such as medicine/engineering etc. should cost very much to run anyway. With new technology why does a few lectures, some electronic books, tutorials and the odd exam have to cost very much anyway?

    The other problem is matching courses to the needs of the economy. If the courses are just hobbies then surely people should just pay for them themselves.

    Whatever happens the less input from the Liberals the better as they would doubtless have everyone studying gender/race/age equality and the largely political and frequently quack sciences of the environment, “sustainability”, “fairness” and long range climate “predictions” or guesses as most would call them.

    1. Stuart Fairney
      December 5, 2010

      I am in danger of becoming something of a cheerleader for your comments but your point about university costs is a very good one. In reality, the use of online technology (video lectures on demand, Skype tutorials, e-submission of papers and visits to campus say once a fortnight could cut both university and student costs dramatically. As for charging, well you are quite right, you might think twice about ‘gender awareness studies’ type courses if you were forced to pay for it and isn’t that really what the protects are about?

    2. edgeplate
      December 5, 2010

      “Clearly the Liberals never expected to have to implement any of their manifesto so it was written solely with the intention of getting votes hence their problems now.”

      That’s the essence of it. Painless solutions needing some magic to work and put forward for acceptance by the lazy of thinking, in the fairly safe knowledge that they’d never have to show the magic in action. Now the bluff is being called.

      1. Scooper
        December 5, 2010

        But Chris Huhne has been released in the Energy Department with the likely cost to the public being astronomical. For years the Lib Dems have been banging on about Green energy thinking that they will never have to implement their wishful thinking. Now they get the chance to kick off some of these hare brained policies (with Cast Iron Dave’s approval) and we could well be heading for problems with our energy supply if Huhne is left unchecked. I’d much prefer to give kids a free education rather than squandering vast sums on green vanity projects.

        1. alan jutson
          December 7, 2010


  2. Rob Hay
    December 5, 2010

    It is healthy for disagreement and debate to go on. What would be even better is if MP’s reflected the views of the voters more. This applies in many areas but most particularly regarding the EU. It is also extremely divisive for English university students to have to repay up to £9k a year for their courses and Scottish students to get it all free (being subsidized by English taxpayers). Perhaps it’s time for English independence from the UK and EU.

    1. lifelogic
      December 5, 2010

      Not only that but as I understand it EU students will also get the cheap student loans and many will be rather unlikely to repay (as wages are often lower and overseas enforcement rather harder) so in effect a grant for EU students and a loan for the English ones who actually pay the UK taxes.

      What a great plan!

      1. JimF
        December 5, 2010

        And not only that but Welsh students will have their courses subsidised down to £3000 tuition fees in England using the extra fees which English students pay to top up to £9000 in Wales. Doesn’t sound to me like this “fairness” policy is all that fair.

        1. lifelogic
          December 5, 2010

          Yes – when they talk or “fairness” it usually just means an excuse for more taxes on the rich, bigger government and an excuse to interfere at every point. Not that any scheme they devise will actually be fair to the tax payers.

    2. Andy
      December 5, 2010

      One does wonder why people like Charlie Kennedy and Menzies Campbell are voting at all. This is an English matter and they sit for Scottish seats.

  3. Eoin Clarke
    December 5, 2010

    Dear John,

    Thank you for your post, it is interesting.

    Forgive me, I have never seen the term Hagueites before. It is a most fascinating term. I’m a red so the nuances probably escape me, but ‘we’ had Hague down as a Euro-sceptic [although obviously not on the same scale as your good self]. When did that change? Under the lite blue DC brand, or was it an ideological conversion?

    A point that might interest blues, is that the faction among reds becomming more hostile to Europe grows bigger every day. At our most pro-European reds were really follwoing suit from Blair, but now that he is gone, it seems we are allowed to be a little more sceptical. That has to begin with halting further exapnsion of the EU. Turkey is the eighth richest country in the world. We already have a trade deficit with them. Their workforce is more flexible than ours, and they are highly skilled in Engineering. Would their have to be a referendum on Turkey’s acession to the EU do you know? If there were to be, then a significant portion of reds would oppose their entry.

    It is to be lamented that allt hese centrists have a stranglehold of the three main parties. I don’t suppose for one minute the great UK public wish for a further expansion of the EU.

    Reply: William Hague never promised powers back or a referendum when he was Leader.

    1. Denis Cooper
      December 5, 2010

      No, the government has clearly stated that the “referendum lock” will not apply to accession treaties.

      The next country to join is likely to be Croatia, held up for a time by border disputes with Slovenia, but with the signing of the accession treaty now pencilled in for next summer:

      The Croatians will be allowed to vote in a referendum on whether they want to be in the EU, but we will not be allowed to vote in a referendum on whether we want the Croatians in the EU.

      Some years later the Croatians would be told that Croatia was joining the euro, and, no, they wouldn’t be having a separate referendum on that because they’d already voted for it when they voted to approve the accession treaty.

      Which is what the Estonians have been told:

      “The decision to join the European Union, which was approved at the autumn referendum of 2003, expressed also support for accession to the euro area.”

      1. sjb
        December 5, 2010

        Denis writes: […] we will not be allowed to vote in a referendum on whether we want the Croatians in the EU.

        The UK has to ratify the treaty so it is open to HMG to hold a referendum on the matter.

        1. Denis Cooper
          December 6, 2010

          But HMG won’t.

  4. Mark
    December 5, 2010

    Higher education policy continues to fail to tackle the issues. We have too many university places, so undergraduate degrees are effectively worthless as they fail to distinguish those of ability from the merely average. Employers now demand a second degree or other evidence of suitability. The tuition fee policy that has been proposed will encourage emigration of our most able to work (and probably also to study) abroad where they are appreciated, while doing nothing to prevent mickey mouse degrees that students will never pay for, leaving taxpayers to pick up the tab.

    Whilst I don’t side with those who consider that all degrees should be vocational I do consider that they should be demanding, rather than dumbed down paper qualifications. We need educational resources to be spent efficiently – not wasted on prizes for everyone that prove worthless.

    1. Mark
      December 6, 2010

      I note that David Davis has worked out correctly that the tuition fee policy is a bad one, and plans to vote against it. Maybe there will be abstainers among Conservatives too. I have to say that I broadly agree with his position, and that I’m surprised there aren’t more MPs with the intellectual honesty to reach a similar conclusion and then to vote accordingly.

  5. APL
    December 5, 2010

    Hitchens: “Francis Maude says he would prefer a coalition to a Tory majority after the next Election.”

    Pseudo Tories, would really prefer to be in a Liberal party, they just know that if they joined the Liberal party (or whatever the **** they call themselves these days) he wouldn’t be able to get his dirty little hands on the levers of power for another generation.

    These people; Cameron, Major, Maud, Hestletine are all 5th columnists in the Tory party, they fill the same role the socialsit workers in the Labour party before they were purged.

    1. Stuart Fairney
      December 6, 2010

      It’s the ultimate ‘get out of jail free’ card when ever a manifesto pledge is thrown away.

      Ah…. it’s the liberals. They must love the current arrangement.

  6. Suze Doughty
    December 5, 2010

    What are Lib Dems for?
    Taking the blame.

    1. edgeplate
      December 5, 2010

      I always thought they were there for people who had a pathological aversion to making a decision and perpetually sought a woolly compromise. Preferably something a bit dreamy and altruistic and glossing over how it was going to be paid for, or whether it was value for money, as if these were illegitimate subjects.

  7. Tom
    December 5, 2010

    With reference to “Hagueites”, whatever he may have thought before, or appeared to have thought, he is now under the malign and unimaginative (“there is no alternative”) influence of the Foreign Office. And, just possibly, he likes sitting at “the top table”.

  8. lifelogic
    December 5, 2010

    To elaborate a bit more. The better universities Oxbridge etc. are able to charge a very much higher fee in a free market – because of their history reputation and “brand”. These better universities are better however mainly due to the fact that they can take their pick of the best input students. If anything educating these better students should be cheaper than doing it for the dimmer ones.

    Good universities therefore like champagne brands have a huge margin “profit” available to them by exploiting their brand. They should certainly exploit this rather than rationing places too much. After all why ration places if students are very profitable business.

    The EU however creates a problem here (and indeed almost everywhere). Normally they could charge market fees to everyone other than home students. Now home students are all the members of the EU. So I understand that no such distinction can legally be made between UK and EU students.

    Cameron should find a way round this EU strait jacket in some way.

    Perhaps loans to students need to be secured or parentally guaranteed on property for students who could not show they were likely to work in the UK post graduation or something. Or loans that have to be on normal secured commercial terms unless a UK tax payer can underwrite them somehow.

    With all those lawyers in the house and at the universities surely they can come up with some such ruse that would work.

    1. Mark
      December 6, 2010

      I have this wonderfully simple idea. Make the fees payable by the local education authority of the student’s school in the first instance. Make it up to them whether to arrange to pass on the bill to an approved loan institution for collection, with the understanding that they stand guarantors in the event of non payment. Even simpler: do without the last bit. Then we’d be back to where we were in the 1970s. Of course, we’d have to slash the number of low standard university places, but we’d be able to indulge in rather more effective vocational education.

  9. Frank H Little
    December 5, 2010

    Mr Redwood, I’ve been trying to find on the Web your own views on tuition fees. Could you assist?

  10. Simon_D
    December 5, 2010

    I would be interested to know where the taxes we pay which are currently used to subsidise tuition fees will be going. Can we look forward to a tax cut and the money being returned to us to spend as we see fit or will it be squandered on something like the EU to subsidise their entertainment budget which is up 85%?

    As for the LibDems, they should vote as they pledged to vote. It is more important to honour your word than anything else.

  11. electro-kevin
    December 5, 2010

    I’d prefer to see the Lib Dems split four ways actually. Especially as they’ve been hung already.

  12. steveredfern
    December 6, 2010

    How typical of a Government of lawyers, medics and bankers to think the average student from a middle or skilled working class background can afford tripled tuition fees, with real interest charges. They have not even got their sums right.

    Take a prospective Architecture student. The course is 5 years plus 2 years prof. practice before they can earn even the same money as someone who takes up a trade. The last time a comparison was done, the lowest paid on site were the site engineer and the project architect.

    So the fees are £45000 plus interest, plus living expenses away from home -say £50,000 plus interest. Total £95,000

    But they forgot to mention the £100,000 that the tradesman will have earned in that time and the architect or engineer will not. And this ignores the very low pay for graduates in the professional practice years.

    The total cost is more like £200,000 to earn little more than average pay, and often the job is insecure and subject to economic fluctuations. We will find that all future architects come from either very wealthy backgrounds or very poor.

    1. alan jutson
      December 6, 2010


      You mention that a Tradesman could have earned £100,000 whilst a prospective Architect Student would be at University.

      Perhaps times have changed, but in order to be a Tradesman a few decades ago, required completion of an Apprenticeship of 5 years duration, with day release and night School. The old Sandwich Courses which comprised 4 days working for an employer using and learning practicle skills, and 1 day and an evening learning the theory at a Polytechnic.

      The problem today is that few people know what a true skilled Tradesman looks like. There was much to be said for the type of courses I outline above, but now all of the Polytechnics have become low level Universities where only theory is taught, with no on the job training.

      Result very few real skilled Tradesmen, with evidence there for all to see in poorly designed and manufactured products in Engineering, and shoddy work on building sites.

      Many Tradesmen decades ago progressed to become designers, worked in Research and Development Departments or moved onto management positions where they could use their knowledge to great effect.

  13. Derek Buxton
    December 6, 2010

    Yes, what use is parliament? Many people seem to asking just that question but no answers are forthcoming.

  14. steveredfern
    December 6, 2010

    Some of the above comments suggest cheaper ways of providing university education. Ten years ago I thought of a system whereby students going to a distant university could pair with another going to their home town university. Their parents could give them board and lodging as a swap, the cost being much lower.

    Though a number of parents were enthusiastic, the thought of missing out on the cultural experience of living on campus and with other students was rejected by the prospective students. The spokesperson for universities was on the radio the other day extolling this rich cultural experience.

    When I visited my son in his expensive hall accommodation recently, at a highly rated university for his Business Studies course, the cultural experience was such that the fathers who had travelled to collect them in their cars, thought that an ambulance may have been more appropriate transport.

    The hall was strewn with debris and food and some of our future leaders were prostrate in the corridors suffering from the night before. The place looked like a home for dropouts in a badly run bed and breakfast. This was not an isolated occasion. He asked the hall management to tell the students keeping him awake at night to keep the noise down. Apparently, he would have to make a formal complaint. The old system, whereby a ‘Mr Nasty’ warden would keep order, is no longer acceptable.

    Now he is enriching his cultural experience by roaming the Capital on work experience, earning 10k pa and meeting his mates at clubs charging £9 for a drink.

    Two more years to go now in a well run shared house! I hope the bottles will be less deep than found during my friend’s visit to her son house at Oxford, where he was trying to read Law.

  15. Jools Brice
    December 6, 2010

    What disgusts me John, speaking as a long life Conservative is not one MP with an English seat, especially Conservative MPs are prepared to stand up for the people of England, the very people who put this Government in power. Disgracefully, they don’t even mention the word England. It’s bad enough that these crippling debts will only affect English students thanks to the skewed Barnett Formula and the Scottish and Welsh Parliament/Assembly looking after their own interests, something denied to England but why are non-English MPs voting on this matter and yet not one English MP has ever ever questioned their right to do so. We all pay the same taxes yet why is England being constantly discriminated against? Conservative MPs should be ashamed of themselves. Who is standing up for England. I have cancelled my membership of the party as I cannot support a party who doesn’t look after it’s own. The Lib Dems have betrayed their voters and as far as I am concerned so have the Conservatives. Many people in England will not forget and I fear this will lose them many votes for years to come.

  16. JimF
    December 6, 2010


    I believe that you should be standing up for the bulk of your constituents and voting NO to this proposal on the following bases:

    1 The proposals as set out will indebt a great swathe of the future “middle England” way beyond that which is reasonable. Graduates leaving University who have the pluck to find a reasonably paid job and look after themselves will still face an additional disincentive to progress in the UK workforce, and to be truly independent.

    2 The proposals discriminate against English students, wherever they study

    The Government should instead take stock of the situation where we are still heading for 50% going to University. Reversing that trend dramatically and adding a Grant-driven, scholarship and more meritocratic element to University entrance would decrease costs similarly to the proposals outlined. A return to work-based, sandwich, day-release and evening courses to supplement on-the-job training would resolve the cost differentials for the perhaps 15% of this age group who just shouldn’t be at University.

    You came into Government with a supposedly radical agenda; this proposal to just hammer up indebtedness amongst your mainstream present and future constituents isn’t radical- it’s regressive.

    1. alan jutson
      December 7, 2010


      Agree with you comments about Sandwich courses (see my blog comment) problem is we do not now have any Polytechnics for students to go to.

      The whole further education system needs a complete re-think.

      Many students going to University now only get actual tuition for 5-8 hours a week, with the rest of the time taken up with personal study or working.

      Do you really need to go to a far away place (University) for own study ?

      How valuable are the 5-8 hours of tuition per week for 36 weeks of the year.

      Other than perhaps the very top Universities, I think it offers poor value for money for students.

      Perhaps we could condense the courses, or have home study for 4 days a week with one day a week at the Universityfor tutorials, at least that may save on accomodation costs.

  17. rose
    December 6, 2010

    Anyone who voted Liberal voted for PR and coalition, when all manifestos go into the pot of negotiations and come out cooked up as something different. The electorate has no say, and pre-election promises are dispensed with, but this is the one thing the Liberals and their supporters have been really keen on for as long as I can remember. I can’t think of anything else they have ever stood for since the war.

    It’s a bit rich too for the SWP etc to be beating up the police and the Conservatives on the pathetic premise that the Liberals have broken a promise.

    Anyway, back to the question: just send our own very bright academic children to University – about 20 of them, as they were before wislon expanded their number, and they can pay it back in general taxation later.

    I was surprised by how many non-English speaking people there were protesting here about EMA etc. I asked some of them what it was all about, and what EMA stood for, and they said they didn’t know, but they managed to convey to me that they were going to have some of their money taken away from them. Education didn’t come into it.

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