Labour granted emergency Commons debate on tuition fees tomorrow
Labour will press the Government on its plans to increase tuition fees above £9,000 after being granted an emergency debate tomorrow afternoon.
Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner complained that MPs had not yet been given the chance to discuss and vote on the topic, after a scheduled debate was cancelled after Theresa May called the snap general election.
The limit on how much universities can charge is set to rise to £9,250 from September, with the Government proposing a further increase in 2018 before linking future jumps to teaching standards.
A debate on the statutory instrument had been due to take place on 19 April, but was postponed after the election announcement.
In her application for an emergency debate, Ms Rayner noted: “Oddly, Mr Speaker, they have been determined not to grant the House a debate since the election.”
Labour’s election gains were attributed in part to its pledge to abolish university tuition fees – a policy that would cost at least £9bn a year.
The Conservatives have stood by the existing system, which sees graduates begin repaying their debts when they earn more than £21,000 before it is wiped out after 30 years.
But Damian Green, Theresa May’s second-in-command, called for a “national debate” on the fairness of the fees system.
Ms Rayner said: “It was the First Secretary of State who called only two weeks ago for a national debate on tuition fees and student debt, but apparently the national debate won’t include this House.
“Both universities and thousands of students across the country are now uncertain about the rate of tuition fees that can be charged.”
Speaker Bercow ruled that the issue was “proper to be discussed under Standing Order 24”, and scheduled a three-hour debate for Wednesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the Tories are attacking Labour after the Shadow Cabinet ministers made clear that the party had made no firm commitment to wiping out existing student debt.
In the last days of the election campaign, Jeremy Corbyn said he was “looking at ways” to reduce the debt burden already built up, adding: “I don’t see why those that had the historical misfortune to be at university during the £9,000 period should be burdened excessively compared to those that went before or those that come after. I will deal with it.”
John McDonnell and Ms Rayner have since clarified that it is an “ambition” that would add £100bn to the national debt and stressing that it is not the party’s official policy.
Liz Truss, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, accused Labour of misleading voters.
“As the party opposite admits, cancelling student debt would cost £100bn,” she said in the House of Commons this afternoon.
“Labour made this reckless promise during the election campaign which would see the debt soaring, but now they say it’s just an ‘ambition’.
“Are they going to say sorry to the people they made their promise to, and are they going to say sorry to the British public for threatening to bankrupt the economy?”