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David Davies: Labour opportunism betrays students in Wales

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"We have heard much about opportunism this afternoon. I do not think that there could be anything more opportunistic than to shy away from taking decisions about the need to change the education system in the way in which members of this Government have done.

They were opportunist when they promised, in their manifesto, that they would not introduce student tuition fees and that they would legislate to prevent them.

They were opportunist when they decided that they would avoid taking any decisions before a general election by hiding behind the Rees report.

They were opportunistic when they decided that they would not implement any of the recommendations from that report until after the next Assembly election, because Labour knows just how unpopular those recommendations are likely to be.

We do not need lessons from Labour about opportunism. It is not opportunistic for us, as a minority party, to debate the future of our children's education.

The Minister knows - as she has done for a long time - that she has very few options. She can decide not to implement top-up fees in Wales and not to put extra money into universities.

She knows that if that happens, there will be a shortfall in funding and that standards in Wales will fall below those in England. She can decide to withhold bringing in top-up fees and to put the extra money in from somewhere else. However, where will that extra money come from?

It will have to come from one of the Assembly budgets and she will not be able to tell us which one it is. I will tell the Labour Party something in a minute.

The Minister knows that if she takes the money out of the budget, as some of the Ministers seem to suggest that we should do - even if she were able to do that - we would simply be deluged with students coming here from England.

There are not many options. However, the Minister could decide not to bring in tuition fees for Welsh students, and she could decide to alter the way in which higher education is organised, which is the essence of the motion that we have brought forward today.

I say quite freely, as a backbench Member, that I find it extraordinary that universities such as the University of Wales Swansea are offering courses in surf studies, and that we have thousands of people doing media studies while we are shutting science departments all over the place.

If we are serious about offering high-quality higher education, we have to look at many of the courses currently being offered, and be prepared to take tough decisions and say that some courses will simply not offer anyone the opportunity to get a job afterwards.

If it means reducing the number of people taking such courses, I fully support that. Like the rest of my party, I am committed to the principle of free higher education for all those who deserve it.

The government in Wales has done everything that it possibly can to avoid taking any decisions on this matter."

"Clywsom lawer am gymryd mantais o gyfleoedd y prynhawn yma. Nid wyf yn meddwl y gellid cael dim mwy manteisgar na gwingo rhag gwneud penderfyniadau am yr angen i newid y system addysg yn y modd y gwnaeth aelodau o'r Llywodraeth hon.

Yr oeddent yn cymryd mantais pan addawsant, yn eu maniffesto, na fyddent yn cyflwyno ffioedd dysgu i fyfyrwyr ac y byddent yn deddfu i'w rhwystro.

Yr oeddent yn cymryd mantais pan benderfynasant y byddent yn osgoi gwneud unrhyw benderfyniadau cyn etholiad cyffredinol trwy guddio y tu ôl i adroddiad Rees.

Yr oeddent yn cymryd mantais pan benderfynasant na fyddent yn gweithredu dim o'r argymhellion o'r adroddiad hwnnw tan ar ôl yr etholiad Cynulliad nesaf, oherwydd gwyr Llafur yn union pa mor amhoblogaidd y mae'r argymhellion hynny'n debygol o fod.

Nid oes arnom angen gwersi gan Lafur am gymryd mantais. Nid cymryd mantais yw i ni, fel plaid leiafrifol, gynnal dadl ar ddyfodol addysg ein plant.

Gwyr y Gweinidog - a gwyr hynny ers tro byd - mai ychydig iawn o opsiynau sydd ganddi. Gall benderfynu peidio â gweithredu ffioedd ychwanegol yng Nghymru a pheidio â rhoi arian ychwanegol i mewn i brifysgolion.

Gwyr os digwydd hynny, y bydd diffyg o ran ariannu ac y bydd safonau yng Nghymru'n disgyn islaw'r safonau yn Lloegr. Gall benderfynu peidio â chyflwyno ffioedd ychwanegol a rhoi'r arian ychwanegol i mewn o rywle arall.

Ond o ble y daw'r arian ychwanegol hwnnw? Bydd yn rhaid iddo ddod o un o gyllidebau'r Cynulliad ac ni fydd hi'n gallu dweud wrthym o ba un. Dywedaf rywbeth wrth y Blaid Lafur mewn munud.

Gwyr y Gweinidog os cymer hi'r arian allan o'r gyllideb, fel yr ymddengys y mae rhai o'r Aelodau'n awgrymu y dylem wneud - hyd yn oed pe gallai wneud hynny - yr unig beth fyddai'n digwydd yw y caem ein boddi gan fyfyrwyr yn dod yma o Loegr.

Nid oes llawer o opsiynau. Fodd bynnag, gallai'r Gweinidog benderfynu peidio â chyflwyno ffioedd dysgu i fyfyrwyr o Gymru, a gallai benderfynu newid y ffordd y trefnir addysg uwch, sef hanfod y cynnig yr ydym ni wedi'i roi ger bron heddiw.

Dywedaf yn gwbl rhydd, fel Aelod mainc gefn, fy mod yn ei weld yn beth hynod fod prifysgolion fel Prifysgol Cymru Abertawe yn cynnig cyrsiau mewn astudiaethau syrffio, a bod gennym filoedd o bobl yn gwneud astudiaethau cyfryngau a ninnau'n cau adrannau gwyddoniaeth ym mhob man.

Os ydym o ddifrif ynghylch cynnig addysg uwch o ansawdd da, rhaid inni edrych ar lawer o'r cyrsiau a gynigir ar hyn o bryd, a bod yn barod i wneud penderfyniadau caled a dweud na fydd rhai cyrsiau yn cynnig cyfle i neb gael gwaith ar eu hôl.

Os yw hynny'n golygu lleihau nifer y bobl sydd yn dilyn cyrsiau o'r fath, cefnogaf hynny'n llawn. Fel gweddill fy mhlaid, yr wyf wedi ymrwymo i'r egwyddor o addysg uwch am ddim i bawb sydd yn ei haeddu.

Mae'r Llywodraeth yng Nghymru wedi gwneud pob dim o fewn ei gallu i osgoi gwneud unrhyw benderfyniadau ar y mater hwn."

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