Britain's upper house of parliament backs tuition fees hike

15th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's coalition government on Tuesday got through another test in its bid to hike tuition fees, after the plans were backed by the upper house of parliament despite an attempt to block them.

After the proposals scraped through a vote in the lower house last week, lawmakers in the House of Lords voted comfortably in favour of raising the cap on fees to 9,000 pounds (10,600 euros, 14,200 dollars) a year at English universities.

The opposition Labour party submitted amendments which would have stopped the proposals in their tracks, but these were voted down.

Universities will be allowed to charge the top rate in exceptional circumstances and the basic level of fees will be set at 6,000 pounds a year. The current fee cap is 3,290 pounds.

The higher fees are now expected to come into force in 2012.

In Tuesday's vote, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government's plans to almost treble the maximum fee charged were backed by 273 lawmakers against 200. Defeat in the upper house is rare.

Before the vote, government spokesman in the Lords, Oliver Eden, warned backing Labour's amendments would be "fatal" to the proposals.

The issue of raising fees was the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition's biggest test to date, and the government's majority was slashed in the lower house vote last week with many Lib Dems voting against the plans.

It exposed deep divisions, particularly within the Lib Dems, who had pledged to phase out fees before forming a coalition with Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives following May's elections.

The policy also sparked outrage among students, who have staged a series of protests in London with one on Thursday descending into serious violence as the lower house voted on the matter.

But there were was no repeat of the violent disorder on Tuesday, with only a handful of demonstrators turning out.

© 2010 AFP

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