Student Top-up Fees
The Lords have passed the Government's plans for a raise in tuition fees.
Anthony Barnett complains that this secondary legislation has been "whisked through parliament with one three hour debate and a quick vote in the Lords". Anthony makes a good point on a wider issue, legislation does suffer from inadequate scrutiny in the House of Commons (a problem that an English parliament would alleviate), but in this case the legislation was rushed through as a matter of political expediency, and because it was secondary legislation. The primary legislation that enabled student tuition fees was passed by Tony Blair's government, imposed undemocratically upon English students using the votes of Labour's Scottish MPs. The present government's legislation is the thick end of Labour's wedge. No ideological line has been crossed. There is no point of principle. It is simply a matter of how much they should pay, not whether they should pay.
Unfortunately the NUS, in their wisdom, decided not to take a particularly partisan stance or make an issue of MPs voting rights. In doing so they betrayed the students of England.
There follows a series of emails from Jan-Feb 2004 between myself and two members of the NUS National Executive. To this day I believe that the reason they did not listen to me is because the NUS was led at the time by a Scot, Mandy Telford, and there was no NUS England (despite the fact that there was a separate NUS Scotland). If they had listened to me and raged against those hypocritical Scottish Labour MPs in the same manner that they now rage against the "Tory bastards" and the "Lib Dem liars", things would now be very different indeed.
The bad news is that English students are to become the most indebted in the entire world.
On the plus side, those of us who have long opposed the undemocratic meddling of Scottish MPs in England's affairs can engage in a spot of schadenfreude.
Those Scottish MPs who originally voted to overturn English democracy and impose tuition fees on English students should now be ruefully reflecting upon the damage to Scottish Universities and the Scottish principle of free higher education. To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction. Prof James Mitchell reflects on that here:
The consequence for Scotland will be that the Scottish Government will lose out because of the Barnett Formula, which determines the way changes in English public spending has a consequence for Scottish public spending. Any decrease in English spending causes an equivalent decrease in Scottish spending. Because there will be less reliance on the state in England that means that there will be cuts in the money available for Scottish universities.
However Scotland will not have the additional resources available to English universities from tuition fees, so in terms of financing Scottish universities it is a double whammy.
This will bring a lot of increased pressure to Scottish universities to find alternative sources of finance. One possible solution would be to introduce fees, another would be to give the Scottish Government real tax-raising powers to fund the difference. However the Tory proposals to implement the Calman report would be inadequate and would not fill the gap that will follow from the consequences of the Barnett formula.
EDINBURGH North and Leith MP Mark Lazarowicz has become the latest politician to sign a pledge to Edinburgh students that he will vote against any increase in tuition fees in England.
Mr Lazarowicz signed the pledge at Edinburgh University Students' Association as part of a campaign to stop an increase in tuition fees in England.
Fees in England are currently under review and many believe this will result in an increase, widening the gap between Scottish and English universities.
Is this the same Mark Lazarowicz who voted strongly for introducing student top-up fees in England, even though he was not elected in England and his own party had voted against student top-up fees for Scotland? By Jove, it is.
And now he's made a public pledge to interfere in English matters again to prevent Scottish universities falling behind in the market place. What an opportunistic, unprincipled, Scottish Labour cunt.