Who’s not being straight now?

David Cameron suffered a torrid time at Prime Minister's Questions alongside the embattled Nick Clegg and Vince Cable over tuition fees today.

David Cameron suffered a torrid time at Prime Minister’s Questions alongside the embattled Nick Clegg and Vince Cable over tuition fees today. In heated exchanges with Ed Miliband, the prime minister claimed that under alternative proposals for a graduate tax:

“… people on £6,000, £7,000, £9,000 would have to start paying back.”

However, under the National Union Students’s plans, graduates earning less than £15,000 will be exempt from the tax, as re-iterated in NUS president Aaron Porter’s letter to Nick Clegg this week:

“… you’ve argued that your proposals are fairer because graduates would only start paying back when they earn £21,000 as opposed to £15,000 in our proposals drafted in 2008.”

On Sunday, Mr Clegg accused Porter of “not being straight”, and on the Daily Politics today Baroness Warsi went further, accusing the NUS of “peddling a lot of myths” – yet this is exactly what Mr Cameron is guilty of.

Speaking on Sky News this lunchtime, Porter ramped up the pressure on the Liberal Democrats, saying:

“They have two clear choices: they can be loyal and keep their promise to the Conservative party, or they can be loyal to students… The anger will continue for the next few days and again beyond the vote.”

Update 1700hrs

The full transcript of today’s PMQs is now online; featuring Democratic Unionist Party MP for Belfast North Nigel Dodds’s question to Mr Cameron:

“In light of his experience of the World cup bid in Zurich last week, can the Prime Minister tell us what his view now is of an organisation that engages in the most convoluted and bizarre voting arrangements, that says one thing and then votes exactly the opposite way, and that has a leader who seems more interested in power and prestige than accountability…

“And after he has finished with the Lib Dems, can he tell us what he thinks of FIFA?”

It’s the way you tell ’em!

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15 Responses to “Who’s not being straight now?”

  1. David Carter

    RT @leftfootfwd: Who's not being straight now? http://bit.ly/dKcQFP writes @ShamikDas #Fees #PMQs

  2. Andrew Simpson

    RT @leftfootfwd: Who's not being straight now? http://bit.ly/ffjiIl

  3. Leonie

    RT @leftfootfwd: Who's not being straight now? http://bit.ly/dKcQFP writes @ShamikDas #Fees #PMQs

  4. Stephen W

    What is the difference between a graduate tax that starts at £15,000 and tuition fees repayable at 9% of incomes over £21,000 that makes the first a great idea and the 2nd a travesty?

    And why is it progressive to have a lower threshold, and to charge people the same regardless of whether they go to Oxford or Wolverhampton? With the obvious difference in income potential from going to Oxford?

    Please do enlighten us?

  5. Mike

    @Stephen W: For me it’s the fact that the source of funding has shifted from public to individual, giving up on the idea that universities should be anything but a process by which a person adds the letters ‘BA’ to their CV. We’ll see a two-tier system as those with prestige can afford not to pass students if they don’t measure up and those without can’t afford to put off potential customers, increasing the gap between best and worst and leading to a generalised ‘dumbing down’.

    Also, grad taxes hit graduates. This is an obvious point that people don’t get. They don’t put people into too much debt if they’ve found they can’t do it and drop out. Say you’re a working class person, the first for whom there is even the idea of going to university. You don’t know if you’ll be able to hack it or even what it entails, so are you going to risk getting into debt when it could end up doing nothing but harm? No, but for those born to go to uni, for whom the debt isn’t as daunting, it is less of a concern.

    I favour a small individual fee coupled with significant public funding to recognise the benefits to both society and the individual that universities should bring (and hopefully to prompt those benefits- why would you, for example, put on public lectures if spending on anything other than the students, your source of income, places you at a disadvantage in the education market-place?)

  6. william haymes

    RT @leftfootfwd: Who's not being straight now? http://bit.ly/ffjiIl

  7. Bill Kristol-Balls

    He’s a cheeky so and so that Aaron Porter, what with being a member of a party who screwed students twice even though they had 3 figure majorities in the HoC (compared to the 57 LD MPs) and did it at a time when the government was rolling in £££ (compared to the current situation as expressed by Liam Byrne).

    Makes as much sense as dumping your missus for cheating on you only to start going out with an ex who did the same thing (twice).

    Times are tough kids, if you want a degree and no debt I suggest part time work and the Open University is the way forward.

  8. Mister Jabberwock

    The difference with a graduate tax is clear –

    you can NEVER pay it back; it is an on going obligation so is much more onerous than a debt;

    it has no relation to the cost or value of what you receive so the provider (the university) has no incentive to up its game;

    it is easily avoided – simply go and study abroad, borrow the money and repay later out of the tax you would otherwise have to pay.

  9. Anon E Mouse

    Under “The National Union Of Students” plans? What planet are these people are? At least they have an opinion I suppose unlike the dithering Ed Miliband.

    How long before Labour comes to it’s senses and ditches him for Alan Johnson or his brother?

    With all the problems the coalition is under over this and the cuts in general, for Labour to have slipped to 39% behind the Tories at 42% shows that the wrong man has been “elected” leader of the party and the sooner this incompetent “Son of Brown” is kicked out on his ear the better.

    Labour wouldn’t get rid of Brown and look what happened. Miliband had his chance and blew it…

  10. Stephen W

    “For me it’s the fact that the source of funding has shifted from public to individual,”
    Under a graduate tax the money comes from graduates, under tuition fees the money comes from graduates. The only difference is entirely semantic.

    “We’ll see a two-tier system as those with prestige can afford not to pass students if they don’t measure up and those without can’t afford to put off potential customers, increasing the gap between best and worst and leading to a generalised ‘dumbing down’.”
    Fair objection. But surely making universities responsive to their students can help drive up standards. If students have a connection to the money, they will demand better service. A grad tax takes power away from students and gives it to government managers.

    “They don’t put people into too much debt if they’ve found they can’t do it and drop out.”
    Again, fair point. But why do you think that a “debt” (which isn’t really a debt) will put people off but the threat of considerably higher income tax will not? I doubt most people will consider there to be much of a difference.

  11. Chris

    “Under a graduate tax the money comes from graduates, under tuition fees the money comes from graduates. The only difference is entirely semantic.”

    Under the current system the tuition fees were in addition to government funding. The new proposals will see government funding cut completely for everything except science and engineering. That is partly why Ed is opposing the coalitions plans because they cut the government teaching grant by 80%.

    “But surely making universities responsive to their students can help drive up standards.”

    No it won’t, it will drive standards down. Just look at America, the home of the mickey mouse, multiple choice degree.

    “A grad tax takes power away from students and gives it to government managers.”

    Totally untrue, already the universities get money per student. In the current and proposed system all the student will get is a statement from the Student Loans Company.

    “But why do you think that a “debt” (which isn’t really a debt) will put people off but the threat of considerably higher income tax will not? I doubt most people will consider there to be much of a difference.”

    The current and proposed system are basically graduate poll taxes, a pure graduate tax is better because it can actually be graduated with income. However, you cannot look at the proposals without thinking about where they are ultimately leading too – the complete removal of government funding from universities, uncapped tuition fees and commercial student tuition fee loans

  12. Eddy Anderson

    Re the NUS:

    Our new writer at Political Reboot, Emanuelle Esposti, considers whether our students are barking up the wrong tree–or rather lamppost?

    ‘It is not the details of the report we should be condemning, but its overarching philosophy’:

    http://politicalreboot.blogspot.com/2010/12/barking-up-wrong-lamppost-why-students.html

  13. Liz McShane

    Anon – I am so glad that Labour never ‘got rid’ of Brown. He was the only one who knew how to avoid us having a 1930s-style depression. Also when you have a spare hour read Ed Balls’ magnificent speech he gave to Bloomberg in Aug (in response to Osborne’s useless/mad effort. It’s a shame Osborne didn’t follow in the family business and just stick to selling wallpaper.

  14. Liz McShane

    Getting back to the subject of this post….. any MP who benefitted from free University/Tertiary education & votes for a rise in tuition fees should be made to pay back the cost of their education & at today’s prices.

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