Skip to main content

Coalition Government

Volume 519: debated on Tuesday 30 November 2010

1. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of coalition Government under the UK’s constitutional arrangements. (27056)

The coalition Government are sorting out the mess they inherited from the previous—[Interruption.] This always gets Opposition Members going from the beginning. The coalition Government are sorting out the mess they inherited from the previous Administration, including a woefully unreformed political system. That is why we are giving power back to Parliament by establishing five-year fixed-term Parliaments, why we are offering the public a choice, for the first time, on using a different and fairer electoral system, and why we will create fairer, more equal-sized constituencies in time for the next election.

I beg the right hon. and learned Lady’s pardon, and I also beg Mr McCabe’s pardon as we have not yet heard from him and we want to do so. I call Mr Steve McCabe.

I feel so let down, Mr Speaker.

In her paper comparing the coalition to a difficult marriage, Miss van der Laan advises Back Benchers that they should

“never take advice from those who have secured Government jobs because their self-interest clouds their judgment.”

Is she right?

I think the hon. Gentleman asked, “Is he right?”, but Lousewies van der Laan is a lady; I think we should get such facts right. As I have said, two parties have come together to repair the damage left by one; it is as simple as that.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the coalition Government are breaking new ground along European lines? Might we send a message to the rest of Europe that actually we do believe in coalition Government in this country?

I certainly agree that in other democracies in Europe and elsewhere the idea of two parties compromising with each other in the national interest is considered to be a good thing. Only backward-looking Opposition Members regard every compromise as a betrayal.

Speaking of which, is not the effectiveness of coalition Government a question of substance? On the substantive coalition policy of tuition fees, the House will want to know how the right hon. Gentleman, as Deputy Prime Minister, is going to vote. Is he going to vote for, is he going to abstain, or is he going to vote against it, as we are?

I am delighted that the right hon. and learned Lady is finally referring to substance. For weeks now Opposition Members have refused to tell the House, or the students demonstrating outside, what their policy is. Is it a blank sheet of paper? Is it a graduate tax or not? The fact is that the proposal we are putting forward—we have a plan; they have a blank sheet of paper—is fairer for students than the system we inherited from the Labour Government.

We are clear: we are going to vote against the trebling of tuition fees, but the right hon. Gentleman will not tell us what he is going to do. This is about what he said he stood for when he was asking for people’s votes. He said that as a matter of principle he wanted no tuition fees and that he would vote against any increase. People will judge him on this. If he votes against, that is the only principled position; if he abstains, it is a cop-out; if he votes for, it is a sell-out. Which is it?

Since the right hon. and learned Lady does not want to discuss her policy or policy in general, let me illustrate what this means in real terms. A care worker who has graduated from university, starting on £21,000 and earning more over time—[Interruption.] No, what people are interested in is what is going to happen to them in practice. Under our proposals, they will pay back £7 a month on average, compared with £81 a month on average under the scheme we have inherited from Labour, and £36 a month on average under the system of graduate taxes her right hon. Friend the leader of the Labour party wants to advocate. I hope that we will now be able to have a reasonable and reasoned discussion about what our proposal actually means for graduates in this country in future.