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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Assembly votes to condemn principle of variable top-up fees

At last there is some signs of life amongst the serried ranks of Labour AMs in the National Assembly for Wales. An amendment tabled by the Welsh Liberal Democrats yesterday to condemn variable top-up fees in principle was passed by 31 votes to 28.

This was achieved by an act of rebellion on the part of Blaenau Gwent Labour AM, Peter Law, and by the failure of Assembly Minister, Andrew Davies, to press the right button.

The dilemma facing the Assembly Education Minister now, is how to take forward her Government's agenda. She has already said that the Rees Commission has been set up to recommend the most appropriate fee structure for Welsh Universities rather than to determine whether fees are necessary or not. She is therefore committed to top-up fees after 2007.

It may well be that the Rees Commission will not opt for a variable fee structure but if they do then the Minister may find problems getting it through the Assembly. This is one issue that is not going to go away.


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