SEAFORD: Norman Baker defends voting for rise in tuition fees

Norman Baker MP

Norman Baker MP

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SEAFORD MP Norman Baker, who last week voted in favour of the tuition fees hike, said he felt ‘rotten’ for making the decision.

The Lib Dem transport minister had said days before the issue went to the Commons that he was unsure of whether he was going to back the policy or not.

The issue has sparked student protests across the country and has led to further anger when politicians voted in favour of the rise in university fees on Thursday.

The policy, which means the cap in fees rises from £3,375 to £9,000, put the Lib Dems under pressure because the party promised to abolish tuition fees before forming the coalition Government with the Tories.

One Lib Dem Seaford Town Councillor told BBC Sussex on Friday that he had resigned from the party and that Mr Baker should ‘hang his head in shame’.

Cllr Nicholas Norman said he no longer wanted to be part of a party that isn’t for fairer people.

But a spokesperson for Seaford Town Council (STC) told the Gazette yesterday (Tuesday) that they understood Cllr Norman had since spoken to the leader of STC and was still a member of the party.

Ahead of the vote last Thursday Mr Baker hinted that he may quit his Ministerial role in order to vote against the policy.

Speaking of his decision to back it he said, “All I knew for certain was whichever option I chose, I would feel rotten, and I do.

“The pledge each Lib Dem candidate made before the last General Election was genuine, and what we wanted to deliver.

“The sad fact is, however, that we didn’t win the election.

“Indeed, we only won 57 out 650 seats. Given that both Labour and the Tories were committed to raising tuition fees, it was simply not possible to reach a post-election agreement that avoided this. I only wish it had been.

“What we did do, almost uniquely in terms of the Coalition Agreement, was negotiate an opt-out that would allow Lib Dem MPs to abstain.”

His Lib Dem Eastbourne colleague MP Stephen Lloyd voted against the plans to increase the cap on tuition fees, saying the promise he had made to his constituents would always come first. The figure was fairly close between the 57 Lib Dem MPs voting with 27 supporting the policy, 22 voting against and a further eight abstaining or not beingpresent.

Two Ministerial aides among Mr Baker’s party - Jenny Willott and Mike Crockart - resigned from their posts because they could not support the measure.

On the day of the vote, another day of protest in London ended in confrontation with nine officers being injured and at least 20 people arrested.