Student Finance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:36 pm on 23rd June 2003.

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Photo of John Pugh John Pugh Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 6:36 pm, 23rd June 2003

We began this debate with a harrowing tale of poverty in Burnley, and I cannot rival that story from my hon. Friend Mr. Willis. However, I have put four children through university recently, so I speak with some experience.

I hope to appeal to the good sense of Labour Members. That may be regarded as a futile endeavour, either because I lack good arguments or—less plausibly—because they lack good sense. Opposition days tend to follow a ritual in which Opposition parties seek to cause embarrassment by moving a motion more attractive than Government policy. Generally, party loyalists, assisted by avuncular and friendly advice from the Whips, tend to grit their teeth, ignore what is said and vote as they are told. However, this is not quite one of those occasions. Today, we are assessing and testing how stubborn the Government will be. A small revolt this evening and the Government will barely pause for breath and press on. A larger than usual revolt and the Government will begin to hesitate, prevaricate and develop a collective amnesia about the policy and its date of implementation. A large revolt on top-up fees will be embarrassing, with bad headlines tomorrow. However, headlines are temporary, and effects of bad policy are more permanent.