British coalition 'rock solid' despite fees row: minister

12th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's governing coalition is "rock solid", a top minister said Sunday, despite the junior partners being split down the middle on the flashpoint issue of university tuition fees.

Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander -- number two in the finance ministry -- insisted his smaller Liberal Democrat party was in it for the full term of parliament, which will expire in May 2015.

"This coalition is rock solid," he told BBC television.

"There is a real sense of purpose about this coalition, it is going to last over the five years because we have a very strong and radical programme of policies to deliver.

"There were a number of Lib Dems unhappy about the fees issue but actually on the coalition itself the party is united."

Alexander said the centrist party had known "it was going to be tough".

"The only way out of this is to continue to deliver our policies to do the right things for the right reasons," he added.

Following the May general election in which no party won a majority in parliament, the Lib Dems entered a coalition with the Conservatives of Prime Minister David Cameron.

During the election campaign, Liberal Democrat candidates had vowed to phase out tuition fees.

But they said it was not possible in the coalition and helped come up with the plan that could see fees trebled.

In Thursday's vote -- during which student rioted outside parliament -- 28 Liberals voted for the hikes, 21 against, while the other eight abstained.

Two polls out Sunday suggested the fees hike has sapped support for the Liberal Democrats.

Lib Dem Energy Secretary Chris Huhne admitted the party faced a period of "immense unpopularity" as they sought to tackle Britain's record deficit but said they would emerge stronger.

"We will come out of it, we will be stronger at the next election and people will see that we've done the right thing," he told BBC television.

© 2010 AFP

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