Tuition fees: Labour pledges maximum cap of £6,000


Marr interviews Ed Miliband on tuition fees cap

The maximum university fee for students in England would be cut by a third under Labour, Ed Miliband has said.

If the party was in power now it would reduce the cap from £9,000 to £6,000 to ease the debt burden on students, the Labour leader told Andrew Marr.

It would be partly funded by higher interest on student loans for graduates earning more than £65,000 a year.

Mr Miliband - who voted against tuition fee increases last year - denied Tory claims the move amounted to a U-turn.

As Labour gathers in Liverpool for its annual conference, he said: "I don't think it is a reversal of policy, I think it is implementing a policy - we voted against the £9,000 tuition fee."

But shadow business secretary John Denham told BBC News that a graduate tax still remains the party's long-term aspiration.

'Fast-buck economy'

Mr Miliband said Labour would fund the reduced cap on tuition fees by scrapping the government's planned cut in corporation tax for financial services and increasing the interest rate on the loans of the highest-earning graduates.

Start Quote

If they think this is going to be a manifesto policy, then I'm sorry - this isn't going to win support of students”

End Quote Liam Burns National Union of Students

BBC chief political correspondent Norman Smith said Labour hoped the announcement on tuition fees would generate a distinctive headline which would catch the public's attention.

Labour's intention was to ease the pressure on the squeezed middle, and also generate the idea of the British promise, the thinking being the next generation of youngsters should do better than their parents - but there were still a lot of questions around the policy, our correspondent added.

And he said another aspect of Labour's plans was their potential appeal to Liberal Democrat supporters, after their party abandoned plans to oppose any rise to tuition fees.

However, Mr Miliband refused to guarantee that the tuition fee cap would be in Labour's manifesto for the next general election in 2015.

"It's something we would do now. It's something we are committed to - but the manifesto is three and half years away," he told Andrew Marr.

But he added: "If we can do more at the time of the election, we will. But this is an important first step".

He said the policy was part of his plan to "change the way our country works" and end the "short-term, fast-buck economy" - a theme he said would dominate his set-piece speech to conference on Tuesday.


Last June, Ed Miliband - then a mere leadership candidate - unveiled his idea for funding English universities.

He would consult with students, their families and universities. Within months he would produce a plan to replace replace tuition fees with a new graduate tax.

It didn't work out that way.

At Labour's conference Mr Miliband, now a fully fledged leader, announced a different policy - a £6,000 cap on fees.

The Conservatives dubbed this a "monumental U-turn".

Not so, said Labour. There was no guarantee the cap would feature in their general election manifesto. This was their plan for now; a measure they wanted the current government to adopt. Mr Miliband said if he could do more on student finance he would.

So we're not clear what Labour's policy will be on election day if it takes place, as scheduled, in three and a half years time.

The announcement has won fresh public attention for this party conference.

Labour people won't mind their opponents badgering them for more details of how the announcement would be funded.

But the next time Mr Miliband charges ministers with reversing a policy or changing their minds, they'll accuse him of a U-turn of his own.

"I think we have got to put an end to the fast-buck era. I don't think the priority for Britain is to cut taxes for financial services - and it's a big choice and it's a big difference between ourselves and the government," said the Labour leader.

Mr Miliband said he wanted to use the party's week in Liverpool to set out an alternative to the "pessimism and austerity" which he claimed was being peddled by the coalition.

But Universities Minister David Willetts said Mr Miliband's call for a tuition fee cap made Labour's vote against fee increases last year look "completely cynical".

He said he had written to shadow business secretary John Denham to ask how the tuition fees proposal would be financed and whether the reduction would lead to lower monthly repayments for students.

In his letter, Mr Willetts said: "Ed Miliband has now accepted that tuition fees should be doubled to £6,000 a year.

"He has consistently supported a graduate tax and Labour MPs were whipped to vote against higher fees at the end of last year. This monumental U-turn is evidence of weak leadership.

"Students, parents and employers need a well-funded and world-class university sector. They will be dismayed when they see the implications of what you propose."

The president of the National Union of Students, Liam Burns, said Mr Miliband was "sorely wrong" if he believed students will back such a position at the next general election.

"If they think this is going to be a manifesto policy, then I'm sorry - this isn't going to win support of students," he said.

"Going into the context of a Parliament where the majority of people promised not to increase fees at all, to simply go back to a position of 'well, we're only doubling it,' well that's not quite good enough."

'Fantasy world'

But Mr Burns said if Mr Miliband's announcement referred to what should be done immediately, he would agree with him "wholeheartedly".

Shadow business secretary John Denham said tuition fees "don't have to be as high next year, if only the government listened to us".

He also said that Labour's long-term aspiration was to introduce a graduate tax. "That is the direction we've said we always wanted to move in. A fairer system of payment for the degrees, for the contribution we ask graduates to make. This is something that can be done today."

He also said the plans were "fully costed".

Liberal Democrat MP Gordon Birtwhistle said Labour's plan to axe the planned cut in corporate tax showed they were "living in a complete economic fantasy world", as the companies that would be affected were potential employers of students.

"If you start increasing the corporation tax on companies, then it'll be cheaper to go to university, but there won't be any jobs to go into when they leave," he said.

Tuition fees were introduced by the last Labour government.

The current £9,000 maximum was introduced by the coalition government.

The Liberal Democrats have been accused by students of breaking pre-election promises not to raise tuition fees.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    449.Total Mass Retain

    Several thinks caused inflation to rocket in the 1970s...Selective memory, Edwin.'

    Hello Mr Retain. I just mentioned how we should respect the opinions of people we disagree with - like you. You have to agree Britain was on its knees in 1979. What do you think of the Times Atlas scandal?

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    Labour supporters in relation to the economy are like alcoholics..........they are in denial........

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    This a blatant gimmick.

    If this is the best the rejuvenated Labour (we were promised at the conference) are gonna come up with we are stuck with the Conservatives for a while.

    Come on Ed, lets talk about the upcoming post capitalist era and protecting ourselves from economic armageddon. Start talking about real socialist change to make our lives better, not this political point scoring gruel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    Labour said 'No' to tuition fees. - They introduced them.

    Labour said they would legislate 'against' an increase in tuition fees. - They raised them.

    Now they say they would cap tuition fees at £6000!

    Where would a betting man put his money?

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    455.Jason Mead
    “However, the nation did elect a coalition government as they chose not to give any one party a parliamentary majority”

    Jason, everybody knows that! But to say that a coalition is unelected and therefore has no mandate is a pointless argument, which is the point I was responding to.

    And, why are you still using multiple usernames – i.e TMR?

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    Does anyone take Ed seriously, including friends, family, etc?

    Listening to Ed turns people off; he lacks credibility, charisma & authority.

    He was elected by the unions, they detested his brother! This alone tells you the extent the labour party has fallen.

    Ed thinks he knows the cost of education, fortunately in Scotland we have the SNP, a party who know the value of education!

    C McK

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    @ 426 Jobsagoodin

    Don't make me laugh. It was an economy based on share prices, coffee shops and house values and Government subsidising low wages and mass unemployment through housing and incapacity benefit- which Maggie perfected.

    Britain ranks 22nd in terms of GDP per capita behind Ireland and Iceland even post economic collapse. That's what 3 decades of Thatcherism did for the UK.

  • Comment number 461.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    The Labour leader goes on about how they want to help the people. In 2008 my parents were living in the US and my dad contacted me to warn me that there was going to be a huge scandal with the property market and the banks and advised me to ensure my debts were paid off.

    Labour were the Government at the time - they must have been aware too so why didn't they warn the public?

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    453. rideforever

    I must disagree with your ideologies argument, the current lot, Tories that is, are Milton Friedman devotees as was Mrs. Thatcher. The current situation simply provides the smoke screen needed to drive through more aggressive slash & burn economic measures than Thatcher ever dared to. Just you watch 'em dismantle the state in the coming four years, they've only just begun.

  • Comment number 458.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    Just now
    It's a sign of the times I'm sorry to say, a time when our politicians know the price of everything and the value of nothing, I despair.'

    What we need is to try and think of rational solutions rather than insulting people if we don't agree with their opinions. Education teaches us the value of this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    I think it's ridiculous so many students moan about tuition fees when they can go to Europe and study. It will be in English, cost half as much, be better for their development & CV and they'll have a fantastic time.

    This is the point of an economic union. From a students perspective they have some fantastic options compared to 15 years ago - they just have to look a bit further afield.

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    No, I didn’t, what I said...that the coalition government was NOT unelected."

    It is true that not a single voter voted for a coalition government (though Lib Dems need to ask themselves what they expected to happen in the case of the hung parliament they wanted).

    However, the nation did elect a coalition government as they chose not to give any one party a parliamentary majority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    State supported higher education marks out enlightened countries from the more "market forces dogmatist" states. Sadly we're following the US model now with pick 'n mix module degrees, few if any tutorials and as for teaching students to think? Forget it. It's a sign of the times I'm sorry to say, a time when our politicians know the price of everything and the value of nothing, I despair.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    You really have to move beyond Tory and Labour. They are all politicians and equally untrustworthy, they want one thing and one thing only: your vote

    And as for ideologies - the are never really implemented, tested, or believed. Drop these ideas.

    Better to just look at what works. Hence look at Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland.

    And after that if you still want some drama, watch a movie.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    370.This Is England
    1 Hour ago
    as a 'hush puppy' I agree! However, employers who fail to invest in apprenticeships and then demand A Level + entry leave the uni/college route as a singular option for many!
    You have a point.So how about government subsidising companies to encourage apprentices to carry on academic study while also doing the apprenticeship. RN has done it for years

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    Making promises to spend more money isn't really very helpful, thanks all the same Ed. I can think of all sorts of things to spend money on. Its so incredibly easy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    I do think it's very brave of HaywardsHeath to point out that all students are not suited to academic studies. It is of course obvious that this is the case. training in non academic but important work like, for example, plumbing might be more appropriate. Also, without good knowledge of the fundamentals further higher education is wasted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    "Edwin Schrodinger
    Ha ha ha. Inflation halved? It was running at 18 per cent."

    Several thinks caused inflation to rocket in the 1970s: The collapse of the pound after 1971 (Heath) when the Bretton Woods currency agreement broke up; the Barber Boom (Heath) stoking up demand when supply was limited; the quadrupling of oil prices after the Yom Kippur war. Selective memory, Edwin?


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