It was seen as one of Labour’s trump cards in the 2017 election, and today the Conservatives tried wrestle back control of the tuition fee debate by announcing a review of university finance.
In an interview with Andrew Marr, Education Secretary Damian Hinds repeated his suggestion made in the Sunday Times that courses that cost less to run could have lower tuition fees. He quashed any notion that fees would be abandoned all together.
"We think it is right that if you benefit from a university degree, you should make a contribution." @DamianHinds tells #marr that the new review will look at how that works, making sure that there is alternative and affordable ways of getting higher education. pic.twitter.com/9ognyy9fHM— The Andrew Marr Show (@MarrShow) February 18, 2018
He acknowledged the current system had not produced the variety in tuition fees that had been expected.
Higher Education Minister Sam Gyimah was also doing the media rounds, and he told Radio 5Live’s John Pienaar that any suggestion universities would be exempt from bringing about a diverse student body as a result of the review was “just not going to happen.”
Higher Education Minister @SamGyimah tells @JPonPolitics reports that Universities will no longer have a obligation to bring about a wider social mix of students is ill informed speculation - "it's just not going to happen" #PienaarsPoliticspic.twitter.com/g9f0VKoD5k— BBC Radio 5 live (@bbc5live) February 18, 2018
One of the big issues facing graduates is the high interest rates on student loans, which currently runs at 3% above inflation. Appearing on Sky News’ Paterson on Sunday, Gyimah said he would not “pre-judge” the review.
Former Education Secretary Justine Greening told Peston on Sunday she was worried cutting fees for the arts and social sciences would stop people from poorer backgrounds applying to study the STEM subjects. She also set out her concerns that the review would just kick the issue into the long grass.
Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner told Marr the review needed to address the “hike in interest and tripling of tuition fees”, and that restoring the maintenance grant was needed.
"Another review really isn't going to solve the problem" - Shadow education secretary @AngelaRayner on government's review of university funding in England https://t.co/qPWnuTVF51#marrpic.twitter.com/ZwwGPlSPQR— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) February 18, 2018
.@AndrewMarr9 questions @AngelaRayner on Labour's pledge on wiping out student debt.— The Andrew Marr Show (@MarrShow) February 18, 2018
She tells #marr that Jeremy Corbyn is 'looking at that' but Labour's priority is keeping school's safe pic.twitter.com/KOXTUcX9KF
Charity abuse scandal
Labour MP Jess Philips welcomed Brendan Cox’s decision to step away from the charities formed in memory of his late wife, Jo, in light of allegations of his behaviour towards women while he worked at Save the Children.
Yvette Cooper also said Cox had “done the right thing” adding: “Hopefully we are seeing a change now in climate and culture”
Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson said aid workers who abused their position to exploit vulnerable people in devastated countries were in “pretty much the lowest circle of hell.”
“The lowest circle of hell” @RuthDavidsonMSP does not hold back in her criticism of international helpers who allegedly used their position to exploit the most vulnerable #Pestonpic.twitter.com/mpwdFg4h0i— Peston on Sunday (@pestononsunday) February 18, 2018
Davidson set out the case for why the UK should continue to put money into overseas aid projects, and took a swipe at Boris Johnson in the process.
The EU Parliament’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt gave an interview to Marr, in which he shot down the notion the UK will get the same deal as Canada with added agreements on financial services.
On divergence, Verhofstadt said moving away from EU rules would have “consequences” for the UK after Brexit.
Ruth Davidson, who campaigned for Remain in the EU Referendum, gave her verdict on Brexiteer Boris Johnson’s Valentine’s Day speech. She said Johnson “walks a fine line”.
She said she would not be able to support a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario.
Yvette Cooper accused Boris Johnson of “going round and round in circles” over Brexit as she attacked his speech, and said he should not be taken seriously.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry appeared on Peston to set out Labour’s Brexit position, and said her party wants to see the current customs union virtually emulated by the UK.
Jess Philips said Labour members told her they did not feel they were having a say on the party’s Brexit position, something which Thornberry rejected.
Ukip’s interim leader Gerard Batten got some screen team on Paterson. He repeated his criticisms of countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia funding mosques in the UK.
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Angela Rayner played down claims of bullying at a meeting of Labour’s National Policy Forum on Saturday, saying: “We have robust debates in the Labour movement.”
Emily Thornberry also hit back against the suggestion.
Ploughing a lonely furrow on housing this morning, Labour’s John Healey defended his party’s plan to seize land from owners and only reimburse at its value before planning permission is granted.