I come from a working class background-seven children in a two-up, two-down. My parents took two jobs and I did not qualify for a grant because they supported my extended family in India. I worked my way through university. Is not it the case that it is not money, but individual personal ambition and aspiration that drives people?
Well. Distortion would be putting it mildly. My tears are rolling down my cheeks obviously. But has anyone heard of grants being refused for this reason? It's a lie. Paul Uppal paid no fees for his education - nobody did. Grants were available to almost everybody, and certainly were available to anyone from a 'working-class' family with seven children. By anybody's standard, such an account implies poverty, and therefore qualification for a grant.
Unless, of course, Uppal's telling porkies. Nobody was told by their local education authority how to spend their money: grants were distributed according to parental income and circumstances. If Uppal was refused a grant, it's because his parents were earning a lot of money.
I'm sickened by the sight of a multimillionaire property speculator not only denying his constituents the education he had, but preaching to them about the virtues of selfishness. His vision of humanity is horrifying: where is altruism, community spirit, the desire to serve mankind? Most politicians would at least nod to these virtues, but Paul - admirably in a way - is remarkably honest. He's in politics to look after himself. He's driven by 'personal ambition and aspiration' and there isn't room in that selfish little brain for a better vision of society.
I'm not angry. I'm sad. Sad that such a small, bitter and reactionary man, one so lacking both in intellect and empathy, can represent the people of this country.
If you want to hear a Conservative argument against fees (and Uppal was there to hear it), read the words of Julian Lewis:
I want to go back to that one occasion, in January 2001, when I was asked to supply my profile. I said:
"I grew up in Swansea and went to the same state grammar school as my father, Sam. The difference was that he had to leave at 14 to help his father as a tailor. He used to tell me,"
when I asked him, that I did not need to know about tailoring, because
"he would be the last of the tailors in my family,"
as now there was a system of students grants. I continued:
"He is an exceptionally intelligent man who would undoubtedly have succeeded at university if he had been able to complete his education in the late 1920s,"
in the same grammar school that I went to.
"The university grant system gave me my opportunity, and I never approved of the changeover to top-up loans-let alone for tuition fees."
I have been listening to some of the arguments-we are beginning to go round and round the same track-but I was particularly struck by the elegant process of ratiocination by my hon. Friend Nick Boles. He was able to make a convincing case that the more we charge people to go to university, the more people will go and the more poorer people will go. In that case, I am tempted to vote against the Government on the grounds that they are not charging enough. Perhaps we should charge quadruple fees, quintuple fees or even sextuple fees, to ensure that the entire population of the country can go to university.