From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: tuition fees, Russia and tax avoidance.
Asked if the Prime Minister was planning to meet with Lib Dem MPs this week ahead of the tuition fees vote on Thursday, the Prime Minister’s Spokeswoman (PMS) said the Prime Minister regularly had meetings with Ministers and MPs on a variety of issues.
Asked if the Prime Minister was confident that the Government would win the vote, the PMS said that she was not going to speculate; the policy had been set out and we looked forward to the vote on Thursday.
Asked why this policy was so important to the Prime Minister, the PMS said that changes to higher education funding were unavoidable due to the current state of public finances. We didn’t believe it was right to ask those on low incomes to pay taxes to prop up an unaffordable university funding system that they were not benefitting from directly.
These reforms were vital to maintaining a world-class higher education system in this country, with the aim of driving up the quality of higher education, because when more funding flowed directly from the student rather than from government, universities would be pressured to up their game in order to attract more students.
Furthermore, the plans were fair. No-one would have to pay a penny of their loan back until they could afford to do so. The Government believed it was fair that there was a link between the cost of a degree and the financial advantages it brought. Those who benefited would pay, and those who benefited the most would pay the most.
And for the first time since the last government introduced tuition fees, part-time students who were studying for at least a third of their time would - subject to the usual conditions - be entitled to a loan for their tuition costs - and they would no longer be forced to pay up-front costs.
Asked what would happen to Lib Dem MPs who voted against the Government, the PMS said that she would not speculate on any outcome of the vote; the Coalition Document set out the Government’s position, which was: ‘if the response of the Government to Lord Browne’s report was one that the Liberal Democrats could not accept, then arrangements would be made to enable Liberal Democrats MPs to abstain from any vote’.
Asked if collective responsibility and the Coalition Document ran alongside each other, the PMS said that the Coalition Document was an agreement between the two parties who made up this Government and it set out what the Government was trying to deliver for the tenure of this Parliament.
Asked if the Prime Minister had received any special briefing regarding the Liberal Democrat MP’s member of staff who was accused of being a spy, the PMS said that she would not comment on individual cases. This case was a matter for the immigration authorities.
Asked if the Prime Minister was happy that people such as this woman could work at the House of Commons, the PMS said that security at the House of Commons was a matter for the House Authority.
Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with suggestions that this was ‘revenge’ for the outcome of the 2018 World Cup bid, the PMS said no, that was a little far-fetched.
Asked if the Prime Minister had confidence in the security at the House of Commons, the PMS said yes, she believed so.
Asked if today’s announcement on tax avoidance was purely coincidental given the vote on tuition fees later this week, the PMS that we had set out in the June Budget that the Government was committed to tackling tax avoidance, and had been clear that it would build in sustainable defences to address long-standing avoidance risks. The Government’s response to significant avoidance risks would be balanced with its commitment to improving predictability and stability in the tax system.
This Government was determined to provide fairness for taxpayers in ensuring everybody paid their fair share, but also to provide certainty for business whose investment would encourage a re-balancing of the economy and job creation. These changes dealt with longstanding loopholes and were becoming a reality under the Coalition Government.