Variable fees clause survives vote

A cross-party committee set up to scrutinise the Higher Education Bill has voted in favour of retaining variable tuition fees for different university courses.

Tony Blair last month risked his reputation and his job in refusing to back down on the controversial policy. Although the government survived the backbench rebellion it emerged bruised and battered by the encounter.

Labour backbenchers were vociferous in criticising the policy as divisive, elitist and another step toward "two-tier" higher education.

Seventy-two Labour MPs voted against the government on January 27th, but the Bill passed its second reading in the Commons by just five votes.

Yesterday, the committee voted by 13 to four to keep the principle of variable tuition fees in the Bill.

The Commons will have another chance to review the legislation when its returns from the committee.