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Students attack the Royal Family as Lib Dem’s split over tuition fee vote

Camilla and Prince Charles

A car containing Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall has been attacked by protesters in violent scenes after MPs voted to raise tuition fees in England to up to £9,000 per year.

A window was cracked and their car hit by paint, but the couple were unharmed.

In angry scenes, protesters battled with police in Parliament Square and attacked buildings, including the Treasury and the Supreme Court.

Ambulance services say 37 people were hurt. The police made 22 arrests.

Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “shocking and regrettable” that protesters had attacked the prince’s car.

Clarence House said the royal couple were safe and attending the Royal Variety performance as scheduled.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said there would be a “very serious and very detailed investigation” into the disturbances, in which 10 police officers have been injured.

Protests spread to the West End with demonstrators breaking shop windows in Oxford Street.

Violent scenes

Riot police had to force back protesters who were smashing windows of the the Treasury and the Supreme Court.

Ben Brown: ‘It’s been quite a battleground’

Earlier, protesters had largely taken over Parliament Square and pressed against lines of police in front of the Houses of Parliament.

The vote will mean fees will almost treble to £9,000 a year. The government’s majority was cut by three-quarters to 21 in a backbench rebellion. Three ministerial aides resigned.

Only 28 Lib Dem MPs – less than half – voted for the government’s plans for tuition fees. Six Conservative MPs voted against.

Mounted police were used to control crowds, at one point charging a group of protesters, as thousands of demonstrators protested outside the Houses of Parliament.

Superintendent Julia Pendry said officers had come under sustained attack and condemned “acts of wanton vandalism, wanton violence” by protesters.


  • 28 Lib Dem MPs voted yes
  • 21 Lib Dem MPs voted no
  • 8 Lib Dem MPs either abstained or were absent
  • 6 Conservative MPs voted no
  • 2 Conservative MPs abstained

There were angry clashes as protesters – some throwing missiles – fought to break through police lines. Fires were started and buildings sprayed with graffiti.

In violent scenes earlier, the BBC’s Mark Georgiou said there had been injuries to both police and protesters near to Westminster Abbey.

The Metropolitan Police say there have been attacks using “flares, sticks, snooker balls and paint balls”.

Students from around the UK gathered in London for a day of protests and a rally – with police expecting about 20,000 demonstrators.


The coalition government faced its first major backbench rebellion in the vote.

The BBC’s Ben Brown, outside Parliament, said protesters shouted “shame on you” as news of the result filtered out to the crowd.

Mounted police

Police clashed with protesters in the streets around the Houses of Parliament

Two Lib Dem ministerial aides, Mike Crockart and Jenny Willott, have resigned their posts.

A Conservative ministerial aide, Lee Scott, has also resigned.

Business Secretary Vince Cable welcomed the result as a way of delivering a “high-quality university sector that is more responsive to the needs of students”.

Liberal Democrat MPs had been under intense pressure – as they had given students an election pledge to vote against any fee increase.

Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who has become a target for student anger, was supported by Lib Dem ministers.

But 21 Lib Dems voted against and eight abstained or did not vote, including Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes abstained.

Mr Hughes said that the “level of fee increase… may have a significant disincentive effect on youngsters going to university”.

‘Bad day’

Reacting to the result, Labour leader Ed Miliband said it was a “bad day for families and young people, and a bad day for democracy”.

Shadow business secretary John Denham said in the debate that the fee increase was being driven by the government’s decision to have deep cuts to university funding.

Ed Miliband: “This is a bad day for young people”

“Even if they had just cut universities the way they are cutting other public services, students would be facing fees of no more than £4,000,” he told the BBC.

The package of measures will see fees rising to an upper limit of £9,000 per year – with requirements for universities to protect access for poorer students if they charge more than £6,000 per year.

The proposals to raise fees have triggered a wave of student and school pupil protests, with a march last month leading to an attack on the Conservative headquarters in Millbank.

Dozens of universities have been occupied by students – with students in five more universities occupying buildings this week.

For the first time, there have also been occupations of schools by pupils.

Divided views

Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, said the students had “won the arguments and the battle for public opinion”.

“We have lost in the House of Commons today only because MPs have broken their promises. We are incredibly disappointed and angry with the politicians who have let us down so badly,” said Mr Porter.

fee protest map

There has been no consensus within the university sector about the fees deal.

The university lecturers’ union has backed student protesters – while university vice chancellors have been split over whether to support or oppose the fees plan.

Steve Smith, president of Universities UK, said: “No one takes any pleasure in asking graduates to take on more debt.

“But the cuts to the higher education budget are a reality and we must make sure that our universities are properly funded.”

The plan to raise fees will apply to students in England. Welsh students will not pay the higher rate of fees, even at universities in England.

In Scotland there are no tuition fees – and Northern Ireland has still to decide how it will respond to any fee rise in England.

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