What’s going on tonight….

OK, I’ve just popped out of the Chamber… We are in the full throes of a debate on whether we should have longer to debate tuition fees tomorrow. We’re not allowed to talk about the tuition fees issue as such, just how much time we get, but as anyone watching will see there are plenty of ways to get round that – even if you end up being rebuked by the Speaker for being off topic or for a Point of Order not being in order. (It is very rare for a Point of Order to actually be a genuine Point of Order, but by the time the Speaker has said it’s not a Point of Order then the non-Point has already been made and will be on the record).

In theory tonight’s debate could continue until any time. The Government Chief Whip will at some point come into the Chamber and try to move a closure motion, that we’ve had long enough to talk about things… but he can only do that if the Speaker allows him to, and then they have to win the vote. There are at least 15 Labour backbenchers indicating they want to speak, and we’re only on the first one, Durham’s Kevan Jones, so it’s unlikely the Speaker will allow a closure motion to be put yet… Unless he’s very keen to have an early night.

As I mentioned during an earlier intervention, there are 26 Labour MPs who have put in to speak in tomorrow’s debate and “a lot more” on the Conservative/ Lib Dem side. That was the position as at whenever I said it…. since then I gather quite a few more applications to speak have been submitted (!). Which, depending on how long the front benches take tomorrow – an hour and a half at least, I’d say – works out at a few minutes each. Hardly the time to get across just how angry constituents feel about these proposals and to address all the issues about making sure they don’t deter people from poorer backgrounds going to university, and the knock-on effect of the abolition of EMAs and AimHigher on university admissions, and whether students will be more likely to go to their home universities because of the cost, etc, etc…

Anyway, going back downstairs to the Chamber, it’s rather fun. Prize for the most bonkers contribution so far was the Tory MP who said that although Labour MPs were professing tonight to be very keen on more time for debate, when she was chair of the Conservative club at Reading University the Labour students set off the fire extinguishers during a debate! Well, she didn’t actually say the Labour students she said “you lot” or something like that… We were going to do an “I’m Spartacus” and all confess one by one to being the culprit.

My phone’s been upstairs charging for the past few hours. Will try and tweet from Chamber if I can get a signal!

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  • Andrew Allison  On December 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    We may differ on the subject of tuition fees, however there should be a full and frank debate tomorrow. Democracy demands it.

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