Former May adviser Nick Timothy calls student fees 'a Ponzi scheme'

Nick TimothyImage copyright PA Image caption Nick Timothy resigned as Theresa May's chief of staff following the 2017 election

University tuition fees are an "unsustainable Ponzi scheme" and should be radically reformed, Theresa May's former chief of staff has said.

Writing in the Telegraph, Nick Timothy likened the fees system in England to the well-known investment scam.

Former Labour education minister Lord Adonis backed the call, saying the "current system of fees and loans is unlikely to survive for long".

But the government said abolishing fees would be "catastrophic" for funding.

Mr Timothy's intervention comes as students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive their A-level results.The number of university places allocated so far has dropped.

Boys help A-level grades edge upwards[1]

Many other options than university[2]

What is new about this year's A-levels?[3]

University tuition fees rise to £9,250[4]

Tony Blair's Labour government was the first to introduce fees for university students in 1998.Before that, the cost had been met by the student's home local authority, which also provided means-tested grants which students could top up with loans to help meet living costs.

The upper fees limit rose to £3,000 in 2004, before the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government approved an increase in the ceiling to £9,000 in 2010.Fees in England now stand at £9,250 for those studying in 2017-18.

Students from Scotland can claim grants to cover fees charged by Scottish institutions, while grants reduce the level of fees in Wales and Northern Ireland, as a result of the policies of those nations' devolved governments.

'Ponzi scheme'

"Tuition fees were supposed to make university funding fairer for the taxpayer, but more than three quarters of graduates will never pay back their debts," Mr Timothy wrote in his Telegraph article[5].

"We have created an unsustainable and ultimately pointless Ponzi scheme, and young people know it.

"With average debts of £50,000, graduates in England are the most indebted in the developed world."

Named after Italian fraudster Charles Ponzi, a Ponzi scheme promises high returns for investors but in fact generates those returns using money from new investors.Eventually, there is not enough money to go round and the scheme collapses.They are sometimes known as "pyramid schemes".

Mr Timothy, who resigned as a Number 10 adviser following the 2017 election result, backed "a single financial entitlement" which a student could spend on any kind of tertiary education, including technical courses which "were often cheaper".

He argued that successive governments had assumed, wrongly, that an increase in university graduates would boost economic growth, but instead technical qualifications were more likely to boost productivity.

Labour peer Lord Adonis, who was an adviser to Tony Blair at the time of the 2004 reforms, argued that it should be possible to return fees to a level of £3,000 or to achieve "outright abolition".

He wrote in the Times:[6] "The Labour Party is committed to outright abolition;for the Tories, Damian Green, the de facto deputy prime minister, has called for a 'debate', while universities minister Jo Johnson floats a 'review'.

"It feels like Margaret Thatcher's infamous poll tax a few months before its abolition."

'The system works'

However, universities minister Jo Johnson defended the system, telling Prospect magazine:[7] "The English system works."

He wrote:"Young people from the poorest areas are now 43% more likely to go to university than in 2009/10, and 52% more likely to attend a high tariff institution.

"Our universities now enjoy 25% more funding per student per degree than seven years ago.And the system is fair on taxpayers:a university degree boosts lifetime income by between £170,000 and £250,000.

"Students pay on average roughly 65% of the cost through fees, while the taxpayer shoulders around 35%, through teaching grants and loan subsidies, and a much higher share if we add £6bn of annual investment in research.This is an equitable split."

In its election manifesto, Labour promised to scrap university tuition fees in England but there was no mention of writing off unpaid student debt....

References

  1. ^ Boys help A-level grades edge upwards (www.bbc.co.uk)
  2. ^ Many other options than university (www.bbc.co.uk)
  3. ^ What is new about this year's A-levels? (www.bbc.co.uk)
  4. ^ University tuition fees rise to £9,250 (www.bbc.co.uk)
  5. ^ in his Telegraph article (www.telegraph.co.uk)
  6. ^ He wrote in the Times: (www.timeshighereducation.com)
  7. ^ telling Prospect magazine: (www.prospectmagazine.co.uk)

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Sajid Javid calls for child abuse debate after Sarah Champion exit

Sarah ChampionImage copyright PA

Cabinet minister Sajid Javid has urged an "honest open debate" about child abuse after a Labour front bencher quit over an article on the issue.

Sarah Champion faced a backlash after writing in The Sun that "Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls".

She quit her role as shadow equalities minister and apologised for her "extremely poor choice of words".

Mr Javid claims she was forced out by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

But Mr Corbyn insists it was her own choice to stand down, albeit one that he supported.

He told LBC radio:"I think she was right to step down.In her words, she said, her continued presence there would be a distraction.

"We cannot demonise whole communities or whole groups of people because of the actions of some people."

'Real shame'

Mr Javid said in a tweet:"Corbyn wrong to sack Sarah Champion.We need an honest open debate on child sexual exploitation, including racial motivation."

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said it was a "real shame" that Ms Champion had resigned because of "over-sensitivity about language".

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Sajid Javid is calling for a debate

Labour's shadow justice minister Yasmin Qureshi refused to be drawn on whether it was right that Ms Champion stepped down.

"I think you need to ask Sarah that question," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.[1]

"Of course we should deal with abuse wherever it occurs and we should ask ourselves as to what we can do to ensure these things don't happen."

Image copyright The Sun Image caption The online version of Ms Champion's article

Ms Champion's article was written after 17 men were convicted of forcing girls in Newcastle to have sex.

The men, who were mostly British-born, were from Iraqi, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Iranian and Turkish communities.

In interviews following the convictions, the Labour MP said such crimes involved "predominately Pakistani men" and said a fear of being called racist was hampering the authorities' investigations.

She then wrote the Sun article, which also included the line:"These people are predators and the common denominator is their ethnic heritage."

image

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionJeremy Corbyn reacts to the resignation of Labour frontbencher Sarah Champion

Among the article's critics was fellow Labour MP Naz Shah, who said it was "irresponsible" and "setting a dangerous precedent".

Following the backlash, Ms Champion sought to distance herself from the article, claiming it had been altered, something denied by the newspaper.

Announcing she was stepping down, Ms Champion said:"I apologise for the offence caused by the extremely poor choice of words in the Sun article on Friday.

"I am concerned that my continued position in the shadow cabinet would distract from the crucial issues around child protection which I have campaigned on my entire political career.

"It is therefore with regret that I tender my resignation as shadow secretary of state for women and equalities."...

References

  1. ^ BBC Radio 4's Today programme. (www.bbc.co.uk)

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Row over Jo Swinson election spending in East Dunbartonshire

Jo Swinson regained her seat which she lost to SNP in 2015 Image caption Lib Dem Jo Swinson was returned as MP for East Dunbartonshire after ousting John Nicolson

Questions have been raised over the general election expenses of Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire.

Ms Swinson's campaign spending came in £210 below the legal limit, but reports say[1] this was only after almost £7,000 of costs were disregarded.

The SNP said there were "serious questions", with the Lib Dems "living dangerously close to spending limits".

The Lib Dems said they had complied with all Electoral Commission rules.

Ms Swinson re-took the seat from John Nicolson[2] by a margin of 5,339, a 10% majority, having previously lost out to the SNP politician in 2015.She was subsequently made her party's deputy leader[3].

Her official declaration of expenses was within legal limits, but only after £2,700 of leaflets and other material bought by the party went undelivered - thus not counting towards the total.

A further £4,040 of costs were registered as "national" spending, promoting the party generally rather than Ms Swinson's local campaign.

The SNP said voters would "find it hard to believe that so much cash could be spent on leaflets that just vanished", adding that:"It was an election, not an illusion show."

'Right to know'

A spokesman said:"These revelations raise serious questions over the Lib Dems' campaign in East Dunbartonshire.People have a right to know what has gone on here.They have been living dangerously close to spending limits - and seemingly writing off thousands in costs to keep them within the rules."

However, a spokesman for the Scottish Lib Dems said all spending was above board, and said the SNP were "smarting" after losing 21 seats[4] in the elections.

He said:"All Liberal Democrat candidates follow the clear guidance they are given about election spending, and our party's compliance team are in constant dialogue with the Electoral Commission to ensure that we are abreast of the latest advice and abide fully by all their requirements.

"All expenditure in this election was apportioned correctly and clearly identified in our election return which is now a matter of public record.

"It's understandable that the SNP are smarting from a disappointing result, but they should accept that they were beaten in a fair fight in seats right across Scotland, and concentrate instead on the important business of running the country."...

References

  1. ^ reports say (www.heraldscotland.com)
  2. ^ re-took the seat from John Nicolson (www.bbc.co.uk)
  3. ^ deputy leader (www.libdems.org.uk)
  4. ^ losing 21 seats (www.bbc.co.uk)

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Scots and Welsh environment ministers meet over Brexit

Roseanna and Lesley Image caption Roseanna Cunningham (left) and Lesley Griffiths will meet in Cardiff

Scottish and Welsh environment ministers are to meet to co-ordinate opposition to Brexit legislation.

The two administrations fear the Westminster government is planning to take over powers which are currently devolved, but exercised in Brussels.

Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said a UK-wide framework for green targets could hold Scotland back.

UK ministers have insisted that any changes after Brexit will enhance, not reduce, environmental protection.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has targeted a "green Brexit"[1] which would strengthen current rules safeguarding nature wherever possible.

'Power grab'

The Scottish and Welsh governments have banded together to oppose moves from Westminster on several occasions in recent months, with first ministers Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones issuing a joint statement describing the EU Withdrawal Bill as a "naked power grab"[2].

Ms Cunningham's visit to Cardiff to meet Welsh counterpart Lesley Griffiths comes three weeks after Scottish Brexit minister Mike Russell made a similar trip[3] to sit down with Welsh Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford.

They maintained their position that they could not recommend that Holyrood or the Welsh Assembly give legislative consent for the withdrawal bill, which is designed to translate EU law onto the UK statute book[4] as part of the Brexit transition.

Image copyright PA Image caption Scottish government ministers have voiced fears that Brexit could see powers taken away from Holyrood

Ms Cunningham contended that about 80% of Scots environmental law originated at EU level, including legislation around waste management, pollution, biodiversity, flooding and drinking water quality.

The MSP said imposing a UK-wide framework could potentially undermine the "more ambitious" targets set in Scotland[5].

She said:"Imposing a UK-wide framework for the environment risks undermining the significant progress Scotland has made, which has seen us win international recognition for our work on climate change and the circular economy.

"We are not opposed in principle to UK-wide frameworks in certain areas but this must be through agreement - not imposition.

"Protecting devolution will allow us to drive forward our ambitious work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance environmental standards and create a cleaner, greener Scotland for everyone."

Ms Griffiths added:"Devolution has enabled the Welsh government to deliver ground-breaking legislation for the people of Wales, which delivers on international obligations and has been recognised as cutting-edge by a number of international institutions.

"The approach presented by the UK government in the Withdrawal Bill could significantly undermine this progress."

'Better protection'

The UK government has insisted that the devolved administrations will actually see an increase in responsibilities post-Brexit, with Scottish Secretary David Mundell referring to it as a "power bonanza" and First Secretary of State Damian Green saying that "there is absolutely the opposite of the intention of a power grab".

Mr Gove meanwhile has claimed that Brexit plans could enhance environmental protection, saying the UK could be a "global leader in environmental policy" outside of the EU.

He said there could be changes to the operation of some rules, but said any change would be "designed to ensure we get better protection for the environment".

He said[6]:"I have no intention of weakening the environmental protections that we have put in place while in the European Union.

"Informed by rigorous scientific analysis, we can develop global gold standard policies on pesticides and chemicals, habitat management and biodiversity, animal welfare and biosecurity, soil protection and river management and indeed in many other areas.We can take smarter and more targeted approaches to the improvements that we want to see."

Talks between Scottish and UK ministers in Edinburgh ended in stalemate[7] earlier in August, with further discussions of devolved powers to be held in the coming weeks....

References

  1. ^ targeted a "green Brexit" (www.bbc.co.uk)
  2. ^ as a "naked power grab" (www.bbc.co.uk)
  3. ^ made a similar trip (www.bbc.co.uk)
  4. ^ translate EU law onto the UK statute book (www.bbc.co.uk)
  5. ^ targets set in Scotland (www.bbc.co.uk)
  6. ^ said (www.gov.uk)
  7. ^ ended in stalemate (www.bbc.co.uk)

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Pest control costs soaring as MPs battle mice and moths

Larry outside Number 10Image copyright Reuters Image caption Parliamentary authorities have ruled out employing a mouser like No 10 cat Larry

A sharp increase in pest control costs in the Palace of Westminster has been blamed on the amount of work being done on the crumbling estate.

Explaining last year's £132,619 bill, Commons authorities said increased maintenance projects had "disturbed pests and made them more visible".

The mouse problem has got so bad, with sightings reported daily, that one MP brought her cats to the Commons.

The official pest control measures included hawk-flying to scare pigeons.

Figured showed a total of 217 mice sightings in the first six months of 2017 and over 1,000 "moth detections" every month.

Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt confirmed she had resorted to her own methods but had fallen foul of Parliament's strict rules.

"I have four cats that have periodically deterred mouse activity by patrolling offices and corridors," she told the BBC.

"Their services are often requested by colleagues, but palace authorities have ruled such initiatives out of order."

Image copyright PA Image caption The Foreign Office recruited Palmerston from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home

Parliamentary authorities distributed a note to MPs last year which read:"No animals other than assistance dogs and security dogs are allowed in the Palace or any of its outbuildings (other than residences).

"This rule is in place because of the duty of care that would arise in relation to animal welfare and the health, safety and wellbeing of Members, staff and visitors on the Parliamentary Estate."

This cost of using hawks to deter pests was just over £16,000 in 2016-17 - £10,000 higher than the previous year.

"Moth deterrents" cost just under £9,000 and "general controls" - including a full-time pest control technician - came to £106,000.

In 2015-2016, the overall pest control bill came to £103,157.

The costs - which are split 60/40 between the Commons and the Lords - were revealed following a Freedom of Information request.

A spokesman said the parliamentary estate is "vulnerable to populations of animals which can cause significant damage to the fabric of the buildings and health and safety issues".

The spokesman added that "mice populations need to be controlled for hygiene reasons, including compliance with regulations, and to prevent accidents caused by mice chewing through electric cables," while moths posed a danger to historic furnishings and the Parliamentary Art Collection.

It is a different story in Downing Street, where Number 10, the Treasury, the Foreign Office and Cabinet office have recruited cats for pest control.

Downing Street's website describes Larry as "the first cat at Number 10 to be bestowed with the official title Chief Mouser".

Foreign Office cat Palmerston was, like Larry, a rescue cat from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

Gladstone is on pest control duty at the Treasury while Evie and Ossie, rescue cats from the Celia Hammond Trust, are on duty at the Cabinet Office....

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