Coalition Faces Rebellion Over University Fees

From the BBC:

The controversy over raising tuition fees in England to £9,000 per year is due to reach its climax, with a vote by MPs and plans for student protests.

The coalition government, facing its first major rebellion, wants to limit the scale of backbench opposition to plans to almost treble fees.

More than a dozen Liberal Democrat MPs are expected to vote against the move.

Party leader Nick Clegg urged students to look again at what were the "fairest and best possible" proposals.

The vote in the House of Commons on far-reaching changes to higher education funding will be the culmination of weeks of political divisions and student protests.

Before voting, MPs are expected to start debating the issue about 1215 GMT and this can last no longer than five hours.

Students from around the UK are expected to gather in London, threatening to "shut down" the capital in a day of protests.

Liberal Democrat MPs have been under intense pressure - after their election pledge to vote against any fee increase.

Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who has become a target for student anger, has said that all Lib Dem ministers will vote in favour of the plan to raise fees.

Speaking outside his home on Thursday, he said it had been a "difficult and drawn-out process for the Liberal Democrats".

And he had this message for his colleagues: "In the circumstances where the country as a whole, we don't have much money, where we're asking millions of people to make sacrifices, there's an increasing number of people who want to go to university, that we want to help to go to university it's not unreasonable to ask those graduates who've been lucky enough to go to university to make a contribution towards the costs of going to university only when they're successful enough and only when they earn money to do so".

Meanwhile Mr Clegg's own party's youth wing is holding last-ditch talks to persuade Lib Dem MPs to vote against the fee rise.

In an attempt to bolster support, ministers announced further concessions on repayment thresholds which would make the fee package more generous to students.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes has said he will abstain or even rebel against the government.

"I have a duty to listen to my local party members and my supporters in my constituency, and they have asked me, on this occasion, to rebel against and break the coalition agreement," he said.

Read the rest here.