5.7 C
February 28, 2021

Thousands protest as UK MPs debate tuition fee rises

Thousands of demonstrators have marched on Westminster as MPs debate plans to raise tuition fees in England to £9,000 a year. Protesters have scuffled with riot police in Parliament Square and have broken through barriers, BBC reports.

Police with riot shields are surrounding the Houses of Parliament. Inside the House of Commons, Business Secretary Vince Cable told MPs the fee plans were fair and would maintain the quality of universities. The coalition government is facing its first major backbench rebellion.

There have been minor scuffles between police and protesters as officers tried to control the march. The BBC’s Heather Sharp in Parliament Square says a smoke flare has been set off. The BBC’s Dominic Hurst had described an “ugly mood” as protesters had scuffled with riot police. Students from around the UK have gathered in London for a day of protests and a rally. The police said they were expecting 20,000 demonstrators.

The Commons was due to vote on Thursday is the culmination of weeks of political divisions and student protests.

Opening a noisy debate in the Commons, Mr Cable said: “The instrument that we’re discussing here is a central part of a policy that is designed to maintain high quality universities in the long-term, tackle the fiscal deficit and provides a more progressive system of graduate contributions based on people’s ability to pay”. Liberal Democrat MPs have been under intense pressure – after their election pledge to vote against any fee increase.

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