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Simon Hughes appointed as Advocate for Access to Education

David Cameron and Nick Clegg have appointed Simon Hughes MP to the unpaid role of Advocate for Access to Education.

Simon Hughes appointed as Advocate for Access to Education
Nick Clegg with Simon Hughes and Southwark Lib Dem councillors at the Salmon Youth Centre last week

The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister wrote to Mr Hughes on Christmas Eve to offer him the six-month appointment to work on measures to increase participation in higher education by those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

Mr Hughes, who is deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, had abstained from the recent Commons votes on tuition fees because he was concerned that higher fees would prove to be a deterrent to young people considering applying to university.

"I am pleased that Simon is taking on this important role, listening to young people and working with them on how best to communicate and explain the opportunities open to them," said David Cameron.

Nick Clegg added: "I know Simon will be tireless in seeking the best ways to communicate the opportunities open to young people, just as he will be a strong advocate for them to government."

The appointment comes days after the Liberal Democrat leader visited Bermondsey to rebuild bridges with local party members furious about the coalition's decision to press ahead with controversial higher education funding reforms.

"It is a privilege to be asked to take on this role, and I will do so with urgency, enthusiasm and determination," said Simon Hughes.

"Parliament has settled the maximum university fee level in England from 2012 and we now have a critically important task to ensure that every potential student has access to all the facts about the costs, benefits and opportunities of further and higher education.

"I will work with every person of goodwill to ensure that from 2011 we have the best system of educational advice, information and support in place, designed to benefit all potential students and to ensure that disadvantaged young people increasingly gain access to further and higher education."

In an interview published on Christmas Eve Mr Hughes told the Evening Standard that he will vote against housing benefit cuts unless the proposal to cut payments to people out of work for 12 months is abandoned. "I'm resolute," he said. "That for me is the big issue, the totem."

• Earlier this month the Bermondsey & Old Southwark MP was appointed to the Privy Council and is now known as Rt Hon Simon Hughes.

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