• Kenneth Gibson MSP

Labour's Broken Promises on Student Fees Exposed



SUPPORT NOT SURCHARGES NEEDED TO BOOST UNI ACCESS The Labour Party has been exposed for “wholesale hypocrisy” on tuition fees after announcing a hike above and beyond £9,000 for students in Wales, despite promising to scrap them during the General Election campaign just a few weeks ago. Welsh Labour specifically stood on a manifesto promise that “there should be no tuition fees” but has proceeded with the increased levy on education regardless. UK Labour’s manifesto also specifically stated “we will abolish university tuition fees”, despite the fact they originally introduced the charges. The SNP condemned Labour for failing to live up to their promises to stand up for students by scrapping these regressive charges which present a barrier to opportunity. Labour introduced £1,000 tuition fees in 1997, before trebling them. These were increased further still under the Tories and Lib Dems to £9,000. Labour in Wales is proposing an additional increase to £9,295. The SNP made free university tuition universally available to Scottish students in 2008 and will maintain free tuition while in government. Kenneth Gibson said: “Labour are all talk during election campaigns and this latest episode exposes their wholesale hypocrisy on tuition fees. “Where they have the powers of government, instead of using them to scrap exorbitant £9,000 fees, they’ve betrayed students and young people by adding a surcharge. “This isn’t anything new. Labour have a murky record when it comes to tuition fees; they introduced them in the first place, have broken umpteen promises when it comes to further student support and are again gearing up to hammer students. “This is deeply embarrassing for Kezia Dugdale. On the same day she launches a policy targeting young people, it’s plain to see what Labour will actually do when they get into office, by robbing them of opportunies. “Scottish students know that with the SNP, no matter what their circumstances are, their education, and their chance to achieve their potential, will always be based on the ability to learn and not their ability to pay. “With an SNP government the number of people from our most deprived communities going on to achieve a university qualification has increased. “We will continue to prioritise education, the most important investment we can make in our future, while Labour sell-out on their supposed values and impose prohibitive costs on students.” TIMELINE: LABOUR'S TUITION FEE HYPOCRISY

1997: Ahead of the General Election, on 14 April, the London Evening Standard published a list of 50 questions for Tony Blair. Question six was: “Will Labour introduce tuition fees for higher education?". Mr Blair’s response was: “Labour has no plans to introduce tuition fees for higher education." 1998: Fees of £1,000 are introduced when the Teaching and Higher Education Act is passed into law. 1999: Labour go into power with the LibDems at Holyrood in return for stopping upfront tuition fees but they introduce a graduate endowment of £2,000 after graduation. 2001: In February ahead of the General Election, David Blunkett in his role as Education Secretary said there would be no top-up fees if Labour won the election. On February 8, 2001, Blunkett told MPs: "I've made my position clear over the past two years that I am against top-up fees. But I can now make the government's position clear. There will be no levying of top-up fees in the next parliament if we win the next election." 2002: In November, Margaret Hodge in her role as Higher Education Secretary told students there was “no such thing as a free lunch". 2004: The maximum fee level is increased to £3,000, despite a demonstration staged by 30,000 students in Trafalgar Square in London. 2005: Almost all universities set their fees at the maximum level of £3,000 per year. 2007: SNP wins Scottish Parliament elections on pledge of abolishing graduate endowment which Labour still support 2008: The graduate endowment comes to an end in Scotland 2009: Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government commissions the Browne Review, which later leads to fees of £9,000. 2011: In March Iain Gray promises that if he is First Minister, Labour “will not introduce any up-front fees or graduate contribution for access to higher education in the lifetime of the next Parliament. There will be no price tag on education.” 2012: In September Johann Lamont announces her Cuts Commission and suggests tuition fees could be re-introduced after questioning why they are universal and not means tested. 2013: The Labour candidate in the Donside by-election – Willie Young – voices his support for tuition fees. 2014: In September during a TV debate the BBC report that Jim Murphy “could not say what his own party's position would be in the future” on tuition fees. 2017: Labour in Wales indicate their plans to increase tuition fees to £9,295 – despite UK and Welsh Labour manifesto commitments to abolish tuition fees. ENDS