Confusion over Cable's fees stance
Published 03/12/2010 | 15:32
Confusion surrounds Vince Cable's intentions in the key parliamentary vote on university tuition fees, after he adopted apparently contradictory stances in two interviews.
Mr Cable, who, as Business Secretary, is responsible for getting the fees legislation through Parliament, indicated last week that he might abstain in next Thursday's vote as part of a party deal to avoid a three-way split within the Liberal Democrats.
But in an interview with his local newspaper he appeared to have reconsidered his position, saying he now had "no doubt" that he should vote in favour of the controversial policy, which would lift the cap on annual tuition fees in England from £3,375 to £9,000.
"Obviously I have a duty as a minister to vote for my own policy - and that is what will happen," Mr Cable told the Richmond and Twickenham Times.
However, he rowed back from his comments, when asked about them on student radio.
Challenged over his newspaper interview, the Business Secretary said: "I didn't announce anything. I think there might have been some slight misunderstanding.
"What I did try to explain was that the Liberal Democrats as a parliamentary party will be deciding as a group how they will vote on Thursday and I would imagine that in the next few days there will be clarity on that issue.
"I have my own views as an individual and as the Cabinet minister responsible, but the decision on how we vote in Parliament - it is true in our party, it's true in the Conservatives and it's true in the Labour Party - is decided as a group, collectively, and that is how we will make it."
Senior Liberal Democrat sources insisted that no decision had been taken on how the party will vote next week, and said the matter may not be settled by the time of Tuesday's scheduled meeting of the 57 Lib Dem MPs in the Commons.
The Liberal Democrats have come under intense pressure from students over the fees policy after promising to abolish them in their manifesto for this year's election. MPs including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg signed a pre-election pledge to vote against any increase.