Vince Cable says party did not break fees pledge

BUSINESS Secretary Vince Cable has denied breaking promises on university tuition fees, insisting the Liberal Democrats' pre-election pledge to oppose any rise was not binding.

He acknowledged that signing the pledge might have been the wrong "political judgment" but maintained that the coalition's plans now to increase fees in England did not reflect badly on the Lib Dems' trustworthiness.

Cable said the Lib Dems "haven't betrayed anybody" and that the coalition agreement struck with the Tories was their only binding commitment.

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"We didn't break a promise. We made a commitment in our manifesto, we didn't win the election. We then entered into a coalition agreement, and it's the coalition agreement that is binding upon us and which I'm trying to honour," he said.

Asked whether it would have been better if he had not signed the pledge, he added: "From the point of view of political judgment it may well have been, but it's not an issue of trust."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has also admitted that he "should have been more careful perhaps" about signing the pledge in common with other Lib Dem MPs.

During the general election campaign Clegg said that raising tuition fees would be a "disaster".

Government plans to allow universities in England to charge up to 9,000 a year in tuition fees have been met with fury by existing students and those hoping to enter higher education in the future.

Millbank Tower, the home of Conservative Party headquarters, became a focus for anger and the scene of violent clashes during demonstrations earlier this month.

Further protests on are expected on Wednesday.