Lib Dem aides quit to vote 'No'
The Liberal Democrats have suffered their first casualties over tuition fees with the resignation of two ministerial aides.
Mike Crockart and Jenny Willott are resigning because they are voting against the Government on the issue.
There had been widespread speculation that Edinburgh West MP Mr Crockart - parliamentary private secretary to Scottish Secretary Michael Moore - would choose to go rather than back the planned hikes in charges.
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg had sought to prevent such departures by giving ministerial aides permission to abstain from the vote this evening without fear of punishment.
Ms Willott, aide to Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, had previously said she was considering taking up that offer, but has now decided she must oppose the measures, according to senior party sources.
In a statement released by the Lib Dems, Mr Crockart said: "This has been an incredibly hard, personal decision, and one that I have not made lightly.
"I have always believed that access to higher education is the key to narrowing the gap between the richest and poorest in society and I cannot therefore vote for a system which I believe puts barriers in the path of able students."
In her resignation letter to Lib Dem chief whip Alistair Carmichael, Ms Willott wrote: "Whilst I support many aspects of the higher education proposals, including abolishing upfront fees for part-time students and the generous support for young people from less-privileged backgrounds, I feel I can't support the significant increase in the fee charged per year. As a result, I cannot support the overall package.
"It is with great sadness that I resign, as I fully support the coalition Government and believe that the Liberal Democrats, with Nick in charge, are playing a crucial role in steering Britain towards a better future."
Meanwhile, Tory MP Lee Scott, a ministerial aide to Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, also resigned his post to abstain in the vote.