02/07/2017 11:56 BST

Michael Gove Defends University Tuition Fees After Cabinet Colleague Calls For 'Debate'

Damian Green acknowledged fees are 'huge issue' for voters.


Michael Gove has defended university tuition fees after Damian Green, the de-facto deputy prime minister, called for a “national debate” on the issue.

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme this morning, Gove said “if you don’t benefit from a university education, you shouldn’t have to pay additionally to support those who do”.

The environment secretary, who was brought back into the cabinet by Theresa May in the wake of her disastrous election, said people who go to university should have to “pay something back”.

“It’s wrong if people who don’t go to university find that they have to pay more in taxation to support those who do,” he said.

In a speech to the Bright Blue conservative think-tank yesterday, Green acknowledged the current £9,250 tuition fee was “huge issue”.

“If you wanted to say you want to reduce that [fees] then either fewer people go to university or the experience would be less,” he said.

“Because the only other way you can get extra money to go in, if you wanted the same number of people, the same kind of teaching, would be to take it from working people through their taxes. 

“Governments have to take money from everyone at work and companies that provide jobs to provide those essential services.  And it may well be that this is a national debate that we need to have.”

Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to make university education free has been seen as one of the key drivers behind the surge in the youth vote for Labour.

Green, the first secretary of state, warned the Conservative Party it needed to “modernise” in order to attract the youth vote.

“We need to think hard, work hard, and change hard. We need to show how Conservative values and policies can work for those parts of the country, and parts of the population, who have turned away from us,” he said.

Gove’s defence of tuition fees comes as May and Chancellor Philip Hammond face Cabinet pressure to ease up on austerity and end the 1% public sector pay cap.