David Blackburn

Cable and Clegg scrambling to repel errant MPs

Cable and Clegg scrambling to repel errant MPs
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The Lib Dems have met the Browne report with a mixture of cordiality and outright antipathy. According to the Guardian, Greg Mulholland is the ring-leader of a band who will vote against a fee rise come what may. Lib Dem ministers are describing the Browne report as ‘unpalatable’ in its current form but recognise that fees must rise and are ‘keeping their powder dry’.

The stumbling block is Browne’s recommendation that interest free loans be scrapped. This stark move was to be offset by raising the threshold and tapering interest rates to protect the disadvantaged. There are also concerns that the affluent will be able to pay off their debt quickly, whilst everyone else is lumbered with debts for 30 years.

Lib Dems in government and without are conscious that mere abstention may not quell dissent in the shires. Apparently, Cable is working to ensure that the affluent won’t be able eradicate their debt immediately, which is a ludicrously unfair proposal – government should not deny people the opportunity of eradicating debts they are perfectly capable of paying. So, Westminster searches for an as yet unfound compromise: Cable addresses the House later this afternoon.      

PS: The FT's Alex Baker has news that repayments will hit middle income earners hardest (those who averaged £27,000/ annum over 30 years bearing the lion's share).