New Student Fees Bill must be stopped, say Lib Dems

January 7, 2004 12:00 AM

Commenting on today's publication of the Government's Bill to introduce top-up fees for students Cambridge's Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson David Howarth said:

"This Bill must be defeated. The Government is trying to make access to higher education dependent on the ability to pay, when it should be on the ability to learn.

"These plans are a poll tax on learning. They make a mockery of the Government's claim to be widening opportunities."

"We should ask those earning high salaries to pay more through a 50p tax rate on their earnings over £100,000 each year.

"This would raise enough to scrap all tuition fees, reintroduce grants of up to £2000 for students from low income backgrounds, and boost university lecturers' salaries, as well scrapping charges for long-term care for the elderly and putting more money into local government. Surely this would be a fairer way forward."

Commenting on local Labour MP Anne Campbell's proposal for a fixed £2500 fee, David Howarth added, "A higher fixed fee is simply a universal top-up fee. It is just as much a poll tax on learning as the government's proposal."

David Howarth also threw doubt on claims that the new fees would help Cambridge University in its financial difficulties. "When Labour first brought in tuition fees in 1997, the Treasury simply deducted the amount raised from the overall support for higher education. Tuition fees turned out to be just another stealth tax. The Department of Education and Skills has refused point blank to rule out the possibility of this happening again."

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