Jenny Willott, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central, has confirmed she will vote against any rise in tuition fees.
Ms Willott, who is Parliamentary Private Secretary to Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, told the Guardian newspaper she will stick to her pre-election pledge to vote against any rise in fees. “I will not support an increase in tuition fees and I’m deeply concerned about increasing levels of student debt,” she said.
If she changes her mind, the ministerial code of conduct will require her to resign or be sacked as a PPS.
Earlier this week NUS Wales president, Katie Dalton, said Ms Willott should vote against the proposals or stand down from her role. “She was elected by students and needs to reaffirm her position,” said Ms Dalton.
“We understand that Ms Willott is awaiting the Government’s official response to Browne, but NUS Wales and the students of Cardiff will be holding her to manifesto commitments.”
Gradually scrapping fees in England and Wales was a key pledge in the Lib Dem’s election manifesto.
In the run-up to the general election, Nick Clegg visited Cardiff University and spoke passionately about his desire to scrap fees over six years. “We’ve got a plan,” he said. “Of course we’d love to deliver it overnight but that’s just not possible given how tight money is.
“What we would do is we would over six years in sort of incremental steps is remove tuition fees, so for instance in the first year, any undergraduate in their last year of study for their first degree of study would have their tuition fees removed, and then the next year, you’d move to the penultimate year.
“Then you’d cap tuition fees for part-time students. And that is, I think, a policy which I hope people would believe in.”
In an interview, Clegg told me: “Our higher education system is one of the great British success stories. We have one of the best systems in Europe, more and more people want to go. We have outstanding research. We need to stop talking about higher education like it’s a drain – it’s a great asset.”
David Willetts, the universities minister, will introduce a low fees threshold of £6,000 and a high threshold of £9,000. This is a far cry from the Lib Dems’ original plan – they had pledged not to support any rise beyond the current £3,290 a year.