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David Cameron and Ed Miliband in tuition fees clash

David Cameron has accused Labour of “rank hypocrisy” in opposing plans to raise tuition fees in England, accusing the party of lacking an alternative. But leader Ed Miliband urged ministers to reconsider, saying they were “pulling the ladder” from the poor. The coalition is expected to get its plans through, despite opposition from Labour and some Lib Dem and Tory MPs.

But Climate Secretary Chris Huhne is being called back from a summit in Mexico to take part in Thursday’s vote.

More than a dozen Lib Dems are expected to rebel, by voting against the plans to raise the tuition fees ceiling from £3,290 to £9,000 a year. They say they have no choice as they signed an National Union of Students pledge to oppose any increase. At least two Conservatives are also expected to defy the government.

During heated prime minister’s question time exchanges, Mr.. Miliband said the coalition was slashing public funding for universities and “loading the cost onto students and their families”.

“The most sensible thing is to go away, think again and come up with a better proposal”, he urged.

But Mr. Cameron said Labour had no alternative scheme, calling Mr. Miliband a “student politician” and adding that the party’s “rank hypocrisy” would do harm to the chances of those from poor backgrounds getting to university.

In a speech to the Centre Forum liberal think-tank in central London, the prime minister said the proposed funding changes would allow the best universities to become “even better”. Raising the earnings threshold at which graduates pay back fees from £15,000 to £21,000 would mean “only the successful” would be affected, he added.

With a tight vote in prospect on Thursday, it has emerged that Chris Huhne will fly back from Cancun, Mexico, where he is representing the UK at a climate summit, to take part. Ministers also offered concessions designed to win over wavering Lib Dem backbenchers-the party’s ministers will all vote in favour of the changes.

The government announced the salary threshold at which graduates start to repay fees will be uprated each year in line with earnings from 2016-not just every five years, as had been planned.

Other concessions included uprating the existing £15,000 repayment level by inflation from 2012 and enabling part-time students to apply for student loans if they study for a quarter of the year, rather than a third as planned.

Former Lib Dem leaders Charles Kennedy and Sir Menzies Campbell are among MPs set to oppose the plans, which have prompted weeks of student protests. Others are expected to abstain.

Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the BBC that some ministers would have “doubts, reluctance and anguish” but understood the plan represented the “best and fairest possible deal”.

The Lib Dem leader’s message to his party tonight was to “stop beating ourselves up” and to start recognising that they had moved from being a party of protest to a party of government”

While the policy of the government is to support a rise, under the terms of the coalition agreement Lib Dem MPs, including ministers, are allowed to abstain on the issue. However, Mr. Clegg said any Lib Dem parliamentary private secretaries – MPs who provide support and advice to ministers – who voted against the plans would find it “difficult to carry on” in the unpaid role.

Lib Dem MPs signed a pledge organised by the National Union of Students (NUS) during the election campaign to oppose any future rises in fees. The party’s manifesto also promised to phase out tuition fees altogether within six years. The leadership says that forming the coalition has meant compromise on this policy is necessary. But the NUS has threatened to campaign directly against those who break their promises.

Meanwhile, shadow chancellor Alan Johnson-who has previously opposed a graduate tax-told the Times he now believed there was a “strong case” for one. He accused the coalition of “abusing the legacy I left them”. (BBC)

Exercise 4. Make a summary of the news issue below and translate it into Ukrainian.

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