Labour MP Bill Esterson challenges government over its plans to


Bill Esterson MP

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson has challenged the government about its plans to allow wealthy families to buy additional places at universities.

In a debate in the House of Commons, the universities minister, David Willetts was questioned on his plans to allow charities and businesses to pay for additional places at university.

The minister denied that students from wealthy families would be able to buy extra university places, although in interviews on radio and television and in the Guardian newspaper, Mr Willetts had said that students would be able to buy places.

His answers in Parliament did little to allay fears that the wealthy would be given an advantage and that they would be allowed to buy a university education, not available to poorer families.

The minister said that only charities and businesses would be able to pay for university places. But it was pointed out that businesses and charities are often controlled by parents who could use their influence to buy university places.

Bill Esterson asked the Minister: "Wealthy families often set up charitable trusts for their families. How will the minister stop family run charities from circumventing the rules and buying places at university."

Bill said: "Mr Willetts claimed that the rules would stop wealthy families from buying places at university ahead of those on low incomes. But the reality is rather different.

"The law as it stands would allow all charities and all businesses to buy university places. That means that family trusts could buy places at university and so could family run businesses for their children. It also means that public schools could buy places at university if for example wealthy parents gave a donation to them.

"The minister told us this wouldn't happen but there is no way of stopping wealthy families from buying places under these plans.

"On top of the sky high fees, this additional way of buying university places will see more students from wealthy backgrounds and fewer from low income families.

"The government approach is just not fair to our young people and risks leaving bright students from poorer areas at a severe disadvantage."

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