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The BBC's Vicky Young
Watches as Tony Blair is confronted
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BBC Wales's Rhuanedd Richards
"Tony Blair insists that tuition fees are necessary to pay for an increasing number of university students"
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Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 21:58 GMT 22:58 UK
Student grills Blair
Tony Blair is confronted by student Andrew Chaplin
Tony Blair is confronted by student Andrew Chaplin
Prime Minister Tony Blair - campaigning at a university campus in south Wales - has come face-to-face with his second public grilling of the campaign.

The prime minister arrived at the University of Glamorgan at Pontypridd on Thursday - his second visit to Wales in less than a week - to outline Labour's commitment to education and lifelong learning.

But he was faced instead with angry students who accused him of driving them into spiralling debt.


He makes promises, but he's made promises in the past that he hasn't kept

Andrew Chaplin
As Mr Blair got out of the car to enter the university building at Treforest, he was challenged by 23-year-old student Andrew Chaplin, a second-year media practice student from Buxton in Derbyshire, on the subject of tuition fees.

Mr Chaplin told the prime minister that many of his co-students were scraping a living because of the fees.

He said if only the rich could afford to go to university and get a degree, then only the rich would get the best jobs.

Mr Blair spent several minutes trying to explain the government's position in a scene reminiscent of the one last week when he was berated by a woman at a hospital in Birmingham.

Mr Blair said that he wanted to create a classless society and maintained that next year because of means testing, only 50% of students would be paying the up-front tuition fee.

But the student did not seem impressed, and afterwards he told reporters he would not be voting Labour on 7 June.

"Students at the moment can't afford to live," Mr Chaplin told reporters.

"He makes promises, but he's made promises in the past that he hasn't kept."

Mr Blair also faced tough questioning at a session with students inside the university.

Many complained how much they were in debt and how tuition fees were deterring people from applying to college.

Computer studies student Gareth Jones told the prime minister he was 4,000 in debt and had friends who were 14,000 in debt through paying tuition fees and no longer having a maintenance grant for their living costs.

"There must be a better way," Mr Jones said.

The prime minister told the students that the election presented them with a clear choice.

Waiting times

He said Labour was committed to expanding the number of university places, while the Conservatives would slash the university budget.

Earlier, Mr Blair told Radio Wales much had been achieved in the health service in the last four years, but there were still things to do.

"When I go around hospitals, I can see parts that need improvement - what I call the before - and I can also see the after - new beds and MRI scanners."

In response to a question from a listener in Swansea on patient waiting times, Mr Blair said he understood the sense of frustration in some areas.

Mr Blair also praised the running of the Welsh Assembly by First Minister Rhodri Morgan - and the PM ruled out any plans to scrap the post of Welsh Secretary after the general election.

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