Labour leadership: Smith pledges to scrap tuition fees

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Labour leadership hopeful Owen Smith has set out plans to scrap university tuition fees in an effort to win over the youth vote.

Mr Smith has called for the current funding system to be abolished and replaced with a 1%-2% graduate tax.

He also promised a high-level apprenticeship to every 18-year-old who gets the grades.

Mr Smith is attempting to unseat Jeremy Corbyn less than a year after he was overwhelmingly elected leader.

At an event at Nottingham University, the MP for Pontypridd said if he was elected Labour leader, he would push for paid traineeships to help further education students get the skills needed to find a job after their course.

He also promised to build 50,000 "first homes" a year, earmarked for under-30s, which would be rented to first-time buyers at 80% of the local market rent, with the remaining 20% going into a savings pot.

"Young people have been let down time and time again by this government," he said.

"Our failure to give the next generation the best start in life is the great scandal of our time."

He claimed young people were now "more likely to be unemployed, less likely to have an apprenticeship, more indebted and less likely to own their own home".

Under Mr Smith's plan to abolish tuition fees, graduates would pay an additional 1-2% tax on income above £15,000 for a specified period - possibly around 25 years after leaving university.

The guaranteed apprenticeship would be available to people with level three qualifications - the equivalent of two A-level passes - and would last for a minimum of two years paid at the living wage.

Mr Corbyn has also said he is in favour of abolishing tuition fees and has pledged to bring back student maintenance grants, arguing that education is a "collective good that benefits all of us".

He said he would introduce a National Education Service, providing free opportunities for lifelong learning.

Ballot papers for the leadership vote have now begun to be sent out to 650,000 party members, affiliated trade union supporters and registered supporters who are eligible to vote.

The deadline for ballot papers to be returned is midday on 21 September with the result to be announced at a special conference in Liverpool on 24 September.

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