Wales Election 2016

Lib Dem Williams admits party mistake on tuition fees

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Media captionKirsty Williams admits the Lib Dems 'let people down' over tuition fees in England

Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams has asked voters to trust the party on student grants despite broken promises not to raise tuition fees in England.

She told a BBC TV election special it had been a "terrible mistake" to make "a promise which we could not keep" while in coalition at Westminster.

The Welsh Lib Dems want to replace tuition fee subsidies of up to £5,190 a year with maintenance grants of £2,500.

Ms Williams said the policy was more affordable than the current system.

The Lib Dems' own review of their 2015 general election defeat cited the U-turn on tuition fees as one of the reasons for their collapse from 57 seats in 2010 to eight.

'Clear and upfront'

Taking questions from an audience on the BBC's Ask the Leader programme, Ms Williams said: "I can't get away from the terrible mistake my party made in the coalition in Westminster.

"We made a promise which we could not keep, and that let people down.

"It didn't matter that Labour introduced fees, [and] they'd raised them. Plaid Cymru had raised them in the assembly. Our wrong did not make those wrongs right.

"What we can do now is be very clear and upfront about what is affordable.

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Media captionTwo young voters give their verdicts on Kirsty Williams's performance

"I could stand here and I could say that's fine, we can carry on paying these student fee grants for years and years when the reality is I can't make that promise.

"I don't want to make the same mistakes as my colleagues. I do things differently in my party in Wales. I don't want to make those same mistakes.

"That's why in this election we're offering a policy which we believe is affordable and which we believe is deliverable."

Asked if students would be £2,000 a year worse off under the Welsh Lib Dem plan, Ms Williams said: "Not upfront.

"At the moment no student gets that financial support upfront. The support goes to an institution in England."

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Media captionWhat did BBC Wales political editor Nick Servini think?

Welsh Labour has ruled out means testing for university tuition fee grants if the party remains in power after the election in May.

The Welsh Conservatives would replace tuition subsidies with a scheme paying half the rent for students not living at home.

Plaid Cymru would also scrap tuition fee subsidies and instead pay Welsh students working in Wales after graduation £6,000 a year, up to a maximum of £18,000.

UKIP has said it would like to cut tuition fees, while the Greens have called for free university education across the UK.

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