Lib Dems Commit Suicide, Tuition Fees Tripled

From The Independent:

MPs voted to triple tuition fees by 323 to 302 after a dramatic day inside and outside Parliament.

The news came after the Liberal Democrats suffered their first casualties over tuition fees with two ministerial aides quitting.

Mike Crockart and Jenny Willott are resigning because they plan to vote against the Government on the issue this evening.

There had been widespread speculation that Edinburgh West MP Mr Crockart - parliamentary private secretary to Scottish Secretary Michael Moore - would choose to go rather than back the planned hikes in charges.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg had sought to prevent such departures by giving ministerial aides permission to abstain from the vote this evening without fear of punishment.

Ms Willott, aide to Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, had previously said she was considering taking up that offer, but has now decided she must oppose the measures, according to senior party sources.

In a statement released by the Lib Dems, Mr Crockart said: "This has been an incredibly hard, personal decision, and one that I have not made lightly.

"After the publication of the Browne Review, I made no secret of my concerns about his proposals. I was keen to see the outcome of ministerial negotiations before making any final decision.

"I had hoped that the Government would be able to come up with a package of proposals which I would feel able to support.

"Many of my colleagues have agonised over the issue but have come to a different conclusion, believing that it is the best solution possible given the state of public finances, and I respect their decision.

"However, I have always believed that access to higher education is the key to narrowing the gap between the richest and poorest in society and I cannot therefore vote for a system which I believe puts barriers in the path of able students.

"I remain committed to the coalition and look forward to playing my part in the months and years ahead."