POLITICS

Tory MPs Slapped Down For Failing To Listen To Labour's Angela Rayner During Debate

Speaker John Bercow tells member: "Don't you smirk at me."

19/07/2017 16:38 BST | Updated 20/07/2017 15:10 BST

Tory MPs were given a slap down for failing to listen to shadow education secretary Angela Rayner during an emergency debate on tuition fees. 

Speaker John Bercow was forced to intervene after Conservative MPs repeatedly interrupted the Labour politician, who eventually said she would refuse to take any more interventions.

He told Newark MP Robert Jenrick: “Don’t you smirk at me”, and said other members had to “learn the ropes”.

He added: “It is normal manners and parliamentary etiquette that a member is given the chance to respond to an intervention before being hollered at to take another.

“It’s not a laughing matter. I am telling you what the situation is, and you can accept it whether you like it or not.  Behave.”

Rayner was repeatedly asked to apologise for Jeremy Corbyn saying he would “deal” with graduate debt during the election campaign, with former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith claiming Labour had used students as “election fodder”.

But the shadow education secretary said her party’s policy had been clear.

Over more interruptions, she said: “The honourable member seems to have failed to understand our policy.  Please listen to my answers.  I was absolutely clear. We said we would abolish tuition fees from the day we took office.

“Unlike the benches opposite, who are chuntering away and not listening to what I have to say despite the fact they intervened.  I am not taking any more interventions if they’re not prepared to listen to the answers.”

In April, universities were given permission to increase tuition fees year-on-year in line with inflation until 2020, with students set to be charged £9,250 from September. 

PA Wire/PA Images
Jeremy Corbyn told NME magazine Labour hoped to "deal with" student debt.

 Plans to debate the removal of the £9,000 cap on fees at around the same time were derailed after Theresa May called the general election - and the government has been accused to trying to skirt around the issue.

Rayner said thousands of students had been left uncertain about the amount they would be expected to pay for their degrees.

Government education minister Joseph Johnson said the debate was “a sham” and accused Labour of “baiting and switching” on its tuition fee policy.

“The government made it clear as far back as the June 2015 budget that maximum tuition fees would rise in line with inflation, and I set out changes to fees in detail,” he told the Commons.

“This is simply more of the same cynical politics we have heard over the weekend, when Labour broke its own election pledge to write off historic student debt.”

The Department for Education has spent two days in the spotlight - with Justine Greening announcing on Tuesday that the government would give schools an extra £1.3 billion of funding over the next two years - but campaigners against school cuts say they will continue to fight.

Blogging for HuffPost UK, Paul Whiteman, general secretary designate of teaching leaders union NAHT, said it would not be enough to “claw back the real terms cuts that schools have seen since 2010”.