Tuition Fees

Part of Opposition Day — [7th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 7:59 pm on 30th November 2010.

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Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 7:59 pm, 30th November 2010

I will deal with interventions later.

The right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen gave a revealing answer to an intervention from one of my colleagues, in which he acknowledged that there are alternative ways of allocating funding in my Department and in the Government. He did not tell us what they were, but we should examine those choices in detail. The House could reasonably expect, in this massive issue that arouses massive emotions, to hear some indication of what the main Opposition party envisages as an alternative to what the Government are doing.

It has never been explained in the House, but we hear on the grapevine that an alternative idea-the graduate tax-is doing the rounds. Personally, I was instinctively quite attracted to that idea, and we had it very carefully examined. I do not know exactly what the proposal is-whether it is what has been called a pure graduate tax or a system of graduate contributions of the kind we are introducing, which relates payment to the ability to pay. I do not know what the Opposition propose. What is their alternative?

The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues set up the Browne commission process to examine the options in detail and in general principle. It roundly condemns the alternative that I believe he favours-although I am not quite clear. His Government were in power for 12 years, overseeing student financing and acting on the basis of the Dearing report, which comprehensively demolished the arguments for the alternative the right hon. Gentleman now says he favours, so what is that alternative? What is it?