Tuition fees debate

Lord Tyler

I have read with interest the very thoughtful recent contributions on tuition fees, and the role of the Lords in determining them.  Personally, I very much agree with what Baroness Murphy has said of the new scheme.  I believe it will be better and fairer, even if it was not the preferred option of the Liberal Democrats, as expressed in our manifesto.  My colleague, Lord Rennard, has also written an excellent piece on this for The Guardian, which is well worth a read.

Their case for the detail of the scheme is compelling, so I won’t repeat that here.  I am, however, concerned with the proper role for the second House of Parliament.  There seems to be interesting variation in views expressed, not least by Peers themselves.

This is reflected, too, in some of the emails I have received.  For example, people ask, does the Lords have a duty to uphold manifestos, just as there is a convention that it does not contradict them?  Does it matter that it is secondary legislation, where the conventions are different to those for primary legislation?  On manifestos, I think it’s quite clear that the “Salisbury-Addison” convention will have to evolve to deal with Coalition government.  It was always a convention between the Labour and Conservative parties – when the latter had a vast majority by virtue of having hundreds of hereditary peers – and was never signed up to by the then Liberal Party, when it was devised.  Naturally, when no one party has majority in the Commons, it cannot be reasonable to expect any one manifesto to be implemented in full and, in fact, they never were anyway.  The idea that manifestos were somehow gospel when there was single party government is a triumph of rose-tinted glasses over experience.

Meanwhile, I never accepted that the Lords should not block secondary legislation.  Indeed, it was a matter of some considerable frustration to me that the Conservatives in the last Parliament were always excessively cautious on this point, and refused to stop poorly thought out detail in legislation even when they could have done so with Liberal Democrat support.  Much thanks they have got.  The evidence is that Labour Peers, far from rewarding the Conservatives’ restraint in opposition, are determined to use every possible delaying tactic and procedural device possible to stymie the Government’s programme, whether on primary or secondary legislation.

Process aside, readers will no doubt note that the reason that this issue is being dealt with as secondary legislation is that the primary legislation enabling tuition fees in the first place was passed yonks ago, by – guess who – the Labour Party.  Lord Knight, who laments this fact in his post, voted for the Bill after a “third reading” debate in the Commons for which the then Government allowed just twelve minutes for MPs to have their say.  As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

I’m writing this before the debate today in the Lords, and I think the arguments are now well-rehearsed, whatever the outcome!

6 comments for “Tuition fees debate

  1. Lord Blagger
    14/12/2010 at 3:56 pm

    Their case for the detail of the scheme is compelling, so I won’t repeat that here.

    Tactic number 43. Declare the debate over, to avoid engaging in debate.

    it’s not compelling.

    Why should students fund up front and take the risk, only for the government to then say, we’re confiscating the benefits for the public good. (Our expenses).

    Heads you lose, tails you lose.

    The current system is the government funds, and the government gets the benefits. It now wants the benefits, but not the cost.

    As for the Lords not being able to do anything, that’s correct.

    It’s why you should be abolished. At over 2,000 pounds a day that it costs us to run one peer, its money down the drain.

    We could fund large numbers of scholarships by abolishing you.

  2. Carl.H
    14/12/2010 at 8:46 pm

    I watched the complete debate, 2.75 hours, and am now awaiting the outcome of the vote of Lord Triesman`s amendment. The debate and indeed all that led upto it has thrown up what to me are important constitutional issues and some inconsistancies. ( Both Lord Triesmans amendments lost)

    Lord Paddy Ashdown lied to the House when he stated the pledge signed by the Liberal Democrats was that “IF” they had become Government then they would oppose a rise in tuition fees. This is untruthful and there is clear photographic evidence to prove the point.
    http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/hs1215.snc4/156721_183832771630983_183832658297661_736356_763611_n.jpg

    Lord Paddy Ashdown has lost my admiration in this lie.

    In the article the noble Lord points to the last remark states “In the current economic climate, I can settle for that.” One should not settle for what maybe 2nd class or not quite right which brings me to my next point.

    The alterations to the existing system are substantial, I do not agree that without sufficient scrutiny this type of thing should pass through our parliament. It is far too important.

    Baroness Murphy who in her post erarlier stated she was voting for the motion and it appeared an awful lot of the House were just going through the motions in the debate. Does this not make the House and the debate appear superfluous to the electorate? What is the point of debate when peoples minds are made up and voting appeared very much along party lines ?

    We have spoken a lot recently about which house is more legitimate and the opinion is that it should be the elected House because it holds the wishes of the electorate. The Salisbury-Addison Convention bears this in mind. Yet over a period of time when influxes of posters from the electorate come to the blog and appear to want to communicate their wishes their Lordships minds as in the debates are already closed.

    There is a very real danger here that the electorate may see any amendment made in the House as being of personal/party value only and the electorate being ignored. This being the case there is reason to debate the actual value of the House, particularly in light of one of the reasons for this motion being carried tonight.

    In debate it was made that the particular need for raised tuition fees was the increase of students wanting to attend University and the cost to the Nation. My Lords is the case not the same within the House, the increase in peers is astronomical as opposed to economical. Could not the House`s existing work be done by small committee`s who properly scrutinise legislation in the other place ? Perhaps all party or my preference cross benchers or other non partisan groups.

    One of the express wishes of this Government is to cut needless, costly bureaucracy and it is appearing to me of late that this House may infact come under this heading. In part of no fault of it`s own due to swelling of it`s ranks by Governments but in other parts simply because the debates are superfluous and therefore costly.

    The problem with this debate as far as the electorate are concerned is the same old problem of politics. We neither wanted the Government to get approval nor for a hypocritical opposition to win who were and always will be as bad once in power. I won`t mention the Lib-Dems who yet again lied in this case Lord Ashdown, shame on him.

  3. Carl.H
    15/12/2010 at 6:56 am

    As a Parent.

    My 4 girls are all above average intelligence, the youngest probably more so than the rest, she is 9 nearly 10.

    Last night`s vote made sure that she will not ever be going to University. No parent, and it is parents who have the most influence in these matters, would see their child saddled with a £70,000 + millstone around their neck. £30 k + University fees + RPI and at least another 30-40k living costs.

    No one can be happy living in debt, people accept it in the form of property buying but that`s not to say they like it or are happy about the long term debt.

    I am reminded of Lord Norton`s post on his blog where he was dug out of the snow by neighbours and I believe a stranger. He didn`t like it, why ? Because he felt indebted.

    Parents in poorer families who believe that their children should be happy first and foremost will not accept this debt for them. University education has been once again put beyond the poor.

    As an elector.

    I watched the complete debate last evening with dismay, what a waste of time. The motions were already carried, minds made up as has been the case a lot of times. The partisan element of the House makes it superfluous to needs, perhaps the money can be spent on education.

    Over the last year or so of looking at our system and the way it works I have decided I will never vote again. The people in the system are liars, hypocrites and corrupt. The whole of our system is based on the old boys network. The banks are supported by Government, they ensure that people are compulsed to do business with such enterprises who do not charge fair rates but are only interested in profits.

    The same can be said with the Digital Economy Act, entertainment for centuries was a beggars art until business got hold of it. Now at risk of criminalising millions of young the Government back the corrupt business.

    I have seen peers complain about the change to allowances which was very little, I`ve seen them not take voting seriously or even look at the issues. I know a couple at least will have found me possibly impudent but I speak my mind and say what I see. Live with it, earn my respect. I have seen others here who know how to play the consumer by being quiet about contentious issues.

    Over and over it is spoken of reform but it is not reform that is required, it is revolution. None of the parties are representative of the people and where they are they are representing the corruption, the I`m alright Jack or the oldboys network.

    The one thing about Islam and other religions is they promote the concept that debt, borrowing and lending is wrong because it brings about unhappiness. Western governments promote debt and so unhappiness. The people are enslaved to the banks and therefore spend a life of drudgery working for a never ending debt. It`s a form of Control, Thatcher realised this when she sold people houses, that they already had paid for with taxes. Cameron now too realises this, Clegg sold out the only opportunity his party had of proving his words and being honest.

    What occured last night was wrong, you can argue it was the better option but like the coming referendum perhaps there was not enough options. My youngest won`t be attending University, the amount of debt and unhappiness is not an option.

  4. Carl.H
    15/12/2010 at 7:28 am

    Isn`t this just laughable after last nights vote.

    “About 57,000 graduates are waiting for refunds after excess payments were taken out of their wage packets.

    Consumer organisation Which? discovered from a freedom of information request that £15m had been overpaid this year.”

    “Paying off a debt is a stressful experience,” says Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith, “So the last thing people need is to find that they’ve been paying out more than they needed to.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11994421

    • 15/12/2010 at 1:13 pm

      The student loans company should pay compensation to all those affected, I’d suggest at similar levels to the interest and charges a bank would charge on an unauthorised overdraft. Fair’s fair.

      Of course, under the new system this is less likely to happen as everyone will be paying far less each year, and many people will simply pay that amount for 30 years then stop, having never paid the full amount for their tuition, the rest being subsidised by the taxpayer.

  5. mcduff@beta57.com
    16/12/2010 at 4:37 am

    Sorry, Lord Tyler, but opinions like this are why the Lib Dems are over.

    You had your best ever chance, and you fluffed it. Well done to you all! British politics is worse off for your cowardice.

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