I seek leave to propose that the House debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration—namely, the Government’s proposed increase in tuition fees with regard to the Higher Education (Basic Amount) (England) Regulations 2016, statutory instrument No. 1205, and the Higher Education (Higher Amount) (England) Regulations 2016, statutory instrument No. 1206.
On 30 March, the then Leader of the House—now the Justice Secretary—stood at the Dispatch Box and promised a debate and a vote on the Government’s plans to increase tuition fees. The debate was scheduled for 19 April, but on 18 April the Prime Minister announced her plan to go to the country in an early general election. That meant that the debate was cancelled. Oddly, the Government have been determined not to grant the House a vote on the matter since the election.
Since then, the shadow Leader of the House raised the issue at Business questions on 22 June and on 6 and 13 July. She finally received a letter from the Leader of the House stating that the Government currently have no plans to schedule these debates in Government time. What a contrast that was with the words of the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union who said last week that
“if a statutory instrument is placed in front of the House of Commons, then the Commons decides if it debates or votes on it.”
A statutory instrument is indeed before the House, but we are not being allowed to decide whether to debate or vote on it. How can he expect the Opposition to trust the Government with the sweeping powers that he wants under the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill?
Only two weeks ago, the First Secretary of State called for a national debate on tuition fees and student debt, but that national debate will apparently not include this House. Universities and thousands of students across the country are now uncertain about the rate of tuition fees that can be charged. With neither Government nor Opposition time to debate the matter, we have no choice but to use Standing Order No. 24—so 109 days since it was first promised by Ministers I ask leave for an emergency debate on their plans to raise tuition fees.
The hon. Lady asks leaves to propose a debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the Government’s proposed increase in tuition fees with regard to the Higher Education (Basic Amount) (England) Regulations 2016 and the Higher Education (Higher Amount) (England) Regulations 2016. I have listened carefully to the application, and I am satisfied that the matter raised by the hon. Lady is proper to be discussed under Standing Order No. 24. Has the hon. Lady the leave of the House?
Application agreed to.
The hon. Lady has obtained the leave of the House. I can therefore advise colleagues that the debate will be held tomorrow, 19 July, as the first item of public business. It will last for up to three hours and arise on a motion that the House has considered the specified matter set out in the hon. Lady’s application.
Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)