Business Secretary Vince Cable will vote for a rise in university tuition fees, he revealed today.
The Twickenham MP suggested earlier this week he may abstain in a House of Commons vote next Thursday if his Liberal Democrat colleagues wanted him to.
But in an exclusive interview with the Richmond and Twickenham Times today, he said he had reconsidered his decision and had “no doubt” he should support the controversial policy that will allow some universities to charge up to £9,000 in fees.
Dr Cable said: “Obviously I have a duty as a minister to vote for my own policy - and that is what will happen.”
However, he stressed the Liberal Democrat Party has yet to decide how it will vote next Thursday.
He said he had earlier considered voting with the Liberal Democrat Party as a group to abstain in order to offer an “olive branch” to his colleagues, who he said were “finding this difficult”.
The Liberal Democrats pledged to oppose any rise in tuition fees during their election campaign.
Dr Cable said: “There is a dilemma.
“I’m very clear I regard the policy as right and as a member of the cabinet I am collectively responsible for the policy.
“There is no doubt that is what I should do.”
He will meet students from St Mary’s University College, in Twickenham, to discuss the fees hike at 8pm tonight.
Sixty students from the university joined protesters in central London during the first march on November 10.
On Tuesday, thousands of students descended on central London in the third demonstration against the Government’s plans to raise tuition fees.
Dr Cable said he felt sad when he saw young people on the streets protesting against the policy.
He said: “Whenever I get the chance to discuss the situation with them face-to-face and I am able to explain it I think there is more understanding of the problem - that we had to take very substantial cuts in my department.
“The Labour Party, when in Government, were planning to cut the department by 20 to 25 per cent."
He added: “What we are doing is giving universities the opportunity to maintain high standards by charging better off graduates later in life more than they are at the moment.
“But we built in a lot of protection for students from low income backgrounds and graduates who have a low income or take time out for a family, and I think there’s common consensus that the system we’ve devised is a progressive one.”
He said only a “relatively small” number of universities would be allowed to charge £9,000 a year, and the maximum for most would be £6,000.
He said: “This is a myth that all universities will be £9,000. We have set very tough conditions before they can go above £6,000.
“There is no reason why this new system, or revised system, should stop anybody going to university who wants to go and is qualified.
“Students should be careful not to listen to the more alarmist warnings of the protesters and just recognise that for the vast majority of people who go to university it is good for them, it increases their chances of getting a good job and it’s still a good option.”
The National Union of Students is planning another day of action on Wednesday, the eve of the Commons vote.