Page last updated at 12:36 GMT, Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Clegg defends plan to raise university tuition fees

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has insisted that plans to charge tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year to students in England represent a "fair and progressive solution to a very difficult problem".

On 10 November 2010, Mr Clegg came under fire for his party's u-turn on tuition fees as he stood in for David Cameron at prime minister's questions.

For Labour, Harriet Harman noted that the Lib Dems had included a plan to abolish fees in their 2010 general election manifesto.

She said: "In April this year the deputy prime minister said that it was his aim to end university tuition fees.

"Can he update the House on how his plan is progressing?"

Mr Clegg said: "This is an extraordinarily difficult issue and I have been entirely open about the fact that we have not been able to deliver the policy that we held in opposition.

"Because of the financial situation, because of the compromises of the coalition government we have had to put forward a different policy."

Mr Clegg continued: "We have stuck to our ambition to make sure that going to university is done in a progressive way so that those people who are presently discouraged from going to university - bright people from poor backgrounds, discouraged by the system we inherited from her government - are able to do so.

"That is why our policy is more progressive than hers."

Ms Harman hit back, claiming teaching grant was being cut by a "staggering" 80%.

"The real reason he is hiking up fees is because he is pulling the plug on public funding and dumping the cost on to students."

But Mr Clegg retorted: "The truth is before the election we didn't know the unholy mess that was to be left to us by her party."

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