British Queen celebrates


Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has confirmed he will vote in favour of tuition fee rises, as he tried to minimise damage from a three-way split in his party.

Mr Clegg said he had hopes MPs could "walk through the fire" together by collectively abstaining in the key ballot on Thursday, but it is clear that is not possible.

He accepted that all Lib Dems hold strong views on the issue, and praised the way they have conducted themselves in a "difficult" situation without showing personal animosity.

A significant number of the party's MPs - including potentially some Government members - are expected to go against the coalition agreement by voting no to fee hikes.

There could be repercussions if ministers decide to abstain rather than actively backing Government policy.

Addressing his parliamentary party, Mr Clegg said there had been a "lot of pressure" from the media and protesters.

But he insisted that "to govern was to choose" and, with money tight, the coalition had decided to pump funds into early years education.

The Deputy Prime Minister thanked Business Secretary Vince Cable for forging a "fair" policy that meant no-one had to pay upfront for their studies.

Mr Clegg also set out the mechanism for dealing with MPs and Government members who decided they could not support the fees measures - but aides refused to reveal those details.

Lib Dem grandees Lord Ashdown and Lady Williams have come to Mr Clegg's aid by appealing to the party's MPs not to vote against the reform package, which will treble the maximum annual charge to £9,000.


Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2010, All Rights Reserved.