Sir, - Labour voters should feel let down after the new Education Secretary, Charles Clarke MP, refused to stick by Tony Blair's manifesto commitment to rule out University "top up fees". The Government is getting ready for a great U-turn that will pave the way for universities to charge even more than the current £1075 per year tuition fees. Some universities are talking about charging £15,000 per year.

For all the carping, Iain Duncan Smith proved remarkably effective in raising this issue at Prime Minister's Question Time. As usual Tony Blair is getting ready to cost the middle classes more money. He said in the House of Commons that the Government would ensure the "poorest students had access to university". What about fairness and merit-based access? Charging middle class families more will result in only the very rich or the very poor getting a university education.

Given the likely time it will take to make the changes, every parent of children aged 15 or less ought to be concerned. If they aspire to send their children to university they had better start saving now. The new fees could cost more than a mortgage, more than sending them to private school and more than a tax rise of 5p in the pound. If parents have more than one child it will be impossible to fund.

Labour used to say that the Conservatives would privatise the NHS. The charge stuck - even though it wasn't true. Now it is clear Tony Blair wants to privatise higher education and make it nearly impossible for young people to have the same educational opportunity he enjoyed himself.


Caedmon Crescent,


Otter facts

Sir, - Two of the responses you printed, (D&S letters, Oct 11), to an earlier letter of mine noted but then ignored its point, which was that legislating against hunters' rights ought to depend on arguments supported by facts, rather than on a lot of people merely asserting a common opinion.

As regards the demise of otter hunting, to which Michael Birch refers, he should ponder the fact that otter numbers crashed catastrophically only after hunting stopped and that anti-hunt campaigners made a sad situation worse by choosing to harass hunters - thus distracting attention from the search for real causes like pollution and habitat destruction .


Ulwards Lodge,

Thornton Watlass.

Great care

Sir, - May I put on the record my grateful thanks to the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton.

When staying in the district last summer, my husband suffered a serious accident. He was taken to the Friarage Hospital, where he remained for two weeks, before being moved to a hospital nearer home.

I cannot speak too highly of the nurses' care and attention he received, at all levels while at the Friarage. My family and I were treated with the utmost courtesy and kindness. The hospital itself was efficiently and sensitively run, was beautifully clean and bright with tubs and bowls of flowers everywhere.

While a spell in hospital can never be regarded as enjoyable, the Friarage personnel, by their kindness, efficiency and thoughtfulness, certainly helped to alleviate the strain and anxiety at the time.


Market Harborough,