SOUTH Holland and the Deepings MP John Hayes says he sympathises with student tuition fee protestors – and feels their actions last week were “hijacked” by extremists.
Mr Hayes, a minister in the coalition Government, voted for the plans to raise university tuition fees and was in Parliament for what he describes as a “very dramatic” day.
He listened in on the speeches of Vince Cable, David Willets and John Denham – during a passionate debate on a policy that was passed by a majority of just 21 MPs and will now allow universities to charge up to £9,000 a year to students.
The Government argues that the deal for the repayments is fairer than the current system and Mr Hayes is particularly pleased with the deal for part-time students – who are now on a par with full-timers.
He spent time on Thursday, the day of the vote, talking to National Union of Students (NUS) representatives about the way forward with higher education policy.
Mr Hayes was the first member of his family to attend university and did not pay any fees.
He said: “I am keen that people like me should enjoy the education and opportunities that I had.
“I said to the NUS that I hoped that their perfectly proper right to protest was not hijacked by extremists but unfortunately any cause will do for some people.
“Some people will do anything to get involved in a punch up and you will always get that element.
“It actually spoils the debate - there is a legitimate and measured debate to be had about this.”
Moulton 20-year-old Aimee Meade, who studies at the University of Birmingham, agrees with Mr Hayes that extremists took away attention from the message peaceful protestors were trying to make.
She said: “However, it just shows the anger and betrayal that many a student feels.
“The majority may have been reduced within the House of Commons but students, myself included, do not feel that they have been listened to.
“Many of my peers voted for the Lib Dems as they felt that they looked out for the students and feel utterly disenchanted with Nick Clegg and the government as a whole.
“The policy itself still seems ludicrous to me, whatever ‘concessions’ they seem to have come up with.
“How is tripling fees the way forward? The ConDems can sugar coat the idea of ‘you pay back less for longer’ but really who wants to be in £30,000 worth of debt at 21?
“For me it is an elitist system, education is most definitely a right and not a privilege and as a peaceful protester myself, I can vouch that students will continue to fight for a fairer education.”
l What is your view on the vote and rioting last Thursday? Email firstname.lastname@example.org