by Paul Goodman
12.15pm: Business Questions is just ending. The Commons is waiting for the debate to begin. David T.C. Davies is asking a question about Coronation Street. George Young will be pleased that it isn't a student finance question from David Davis, who's said that he'll be voting against the Government today. There's been quite a lot of not-so-gentle warming up for Liberal Democrat bashing from the Labour benches.
12.18pm: So what do we know to date? That David Willetts has told Laura Kuenssberg that he believes the bill will pass. That Don Foster says he's now "likely" to vote with the Government. That Peter Bone believes that the Liberal Democrat U-turn is "bad for politics", and may not support the bill. That the Whips have been "turning the screws". That the amendment to delay the vote won't be called – and that, according to Paul Waugh, "Speaker Bercow has ruled there will be no vote on 3 amendments to tuition fees. So no delay: it's either Yes or No or Abstain".
12.27pm: Cable on his feet.
12.39pm: Cable has just said that he'll "finish this section and then take an intervention". He was jeered shortly after the start of his speech for saying that he'd give way "when I have developed an argument". To date, he has attacked – a graduate tax, other possible alternatives – rather than defended the Government's policy.
12.40pm: Cable takes intervention.
12.41pm: Sceptical question from John Baron on the Conservative benches.
12.43pm: Andrew Selous raises the unfairness-to-England point.
12.47pm: Is Simon Hughes looking for a deal – a way of supporting the Government? He's just asked Cable for assurances that rises in fees will be kept down.
12.50pm: Cable's now been speaking for over 20 minutes and hasn't yet had a helpful intervention.
12.56pm: Cable has wound up. He spoke for roughly half an hour – authoritatively, knowledgeably, but without focus or cut-through. He obtained no help from either the Liberal Democrat or the Conservative backbenches. On balance, his speech is unlikely to sway waverers – and a few will be as influenced by what they hear in the Chamber as by the views of their constituents or advice of the Whips.
12.57pm: Denham reproves David Cameron and Nick Clegg for leaving the Chamber. Blair and Brown, of course, behaved in exactly the same way as their Government successors.
1.07pm: Denham has been up for 10 minutes. He started by saying that he didn't want to concentrate on the future of the Liberal Democrats. His aim to date is clearly to concentrate his fire on the Conservatives, not anger potential Liberal Democrats by attacks on their party, and woo them into the No Lobby later this afternoon. He's making a mix of ad hominem attacks on Cameron – not on Clegg, please note – and a detailed assault on the Bill.
1.13pm: Denham's let John Baron in. He probably hoped for a helpful intervention, after Baron's question earlier to Cable about participation. He didn't get one: Baron attacked a graduate tax.
1.17pm: Denham is getting a much better hearing than Cable, and seems to have the wind in his sails. He's just got away with a risky gag comparing Cameron's policy (concentrating his fire on the Prime Minister again) to TV offers to consolidate household debts.
1.20pm: Denham reads an e-mail to the Commons from David Rendel – the anti-Coalition former Liberal Democrat MP – critical of the Government's scheme. Wonder how he got hold of it it.
1.22pm: Strong intervention from Matt Hancock – following a sharp one from Charlie Elphicke about Labour's spending commitments – about the IFS study comparing a graduate tax as less progressive than the Government's scheme.
1.24pm: Denham gives away to Andrew Percy, a Conservative rebel, reproves Cable for not giving way to him – a clever dig – and praises him for his independence.
1.32pm: Denham wound up with a stagey but effective pitch to the Liberal Democrats, reminding them that "I was once a Minister who resigned on a point of principle", and that voting against one's party isn't as bad as one fears. (He quit Blair's Government over the Iraq War). It was a logical place to go – given his strategy of seeking to attack Cameron personally and woo Liberal Democrat waiverers generally. "If you don't believe in it, vote against it."
1.37pm: As David Evenett speaks from the Conservative backbenches, Edward Leigh speaks for Middle England…or the middle classes…or Middle Britain: "We can't carry on paying for this." A sharp reminder that much of the debate to date has concentrated on poorer students and families.
1.42pm: Who do you put up, if you're the Tory Whips, to have a chance of being called to speak after Denham? What about a former Whip…a "senior colleague"…a former Education Shadow Minister…and the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Education Secretary – namely, David Evenett. He was bouncy, forceful, and tore into Denham with energy.
2.16: Ben Gummer has just spoken as fluently as his father would have done, although Gummer senior would have done it without a note. Interesting to see a member of the new intake up second from the Conservative backbenches. Can we assume no speech from David Davis?
1.50pm: One of Labour's favourite class war gambits, tiresomely exhibited by David Blunkett a few moments ago, is to try to deprive the Conservatives of legitimacy by representing themselves as the only authentic representatives of working people. Congratulations to Dan Byles for intervening on Blunkett and, by highlighting his own life story, illustrating that it just ain't so. And double congratulations for coming in again with a point of order, and forcing Blunkett to backtrack.
2.00pm: As expected, Greg Mulholland confirms that he'll vote against the bill.
2.30pm: This is my first sight of Andrew Percy, who's speaking against the bill. Strong, fluent, convinced speaker. Just taken a difficult intervention from loyalist Margot James. His argument is less muscular than his manner – he's resting much of his case on perceptions of the policy rather than its content. Has confessed that he doesn't have an alternative, but wants the Government to think again.
2.49pm: Accomplished speech from Sam Gyimah, following one from Emily Thornberry, on the Labour backbenches, that was opposite in intent from John Denham's from the party's front bench earlier. The Liberal Democrats are Labour's best hope of beating the Government tonight. So he was nice to them. They're also the best chance of beating Labour in Thornberry's Islington South and Finsbury constituency. So she was nasty to them.
2.55pm: Lively speech against higher fees from David Lammy…formerly Minister in a Labour Government that brought in…higher fees.
3.01pm: David Willetts, who'll wind up for the Government, has just intervened on Steve Brine, who's speaking. Important for the former to be in the Chamber well before the wind-ups to listen to backbench speeches – all of which, from the Tories, have come so far from members of the new intake.
3.15pm: According to Andrew Sparrow, George Osborne said earlier today at a press gallery lunch that opposing tuition fees in Opposition "taught us a very important lesson, that if you lose intellectual credibility … you just put yourself further away from government. We mistook opportunism for opportunity and paid a heavy price for it". John Leach has just made the second speech from the Liberal Democrat backbenches. Like Mulholland, he opposed the Government.
3.28pm: Alok Sharma speaking. Kathy Newman is reporting a "nuclear" mood among Tory MPs – this will be bound up the IPSA factor, which I described at length last night. Michael Crick says that Julian Brazier has told students that he will be supporting the Government.
3.45pm: Nick Boles is making a speech packed with statistics and figures – indicating that fee increases have co-incided with higher participation from poorer students.
4.10pm: Police horses now reported to be charging at protesters outside Westminster. Anna Soubry has just sat down, having made a fighting speech. Laura Kuenssberg writes: "Best current guess: 16 lib ministers vote yes, a few other b'benchers too, 15 or so vote against, leaving about 20 abstensions: a guess!" Speeches now down to four minutes.
4.21pm: Julian Lewis has just sat down, having made an angry, vehement speech against the bill, including a shot against Nick Boles's speech earlier. He sound not so much detached from his front bench as estranged.
4.32pm: Brave speech by Duncan Hames, Liberal Democrat MP, saying that he'll vote with the Government – the first contributor from the backbenches to do so.
4.43pm: Guto Bebb speaking. Andrew Sparrow has Mike Crockart's resignation letter from the Liberal Democrat front bench. Its key passage says: "I believe that access to higher education is a key enabler of social mobility and the best way to narrow the gap between the richest and poorest in society. I cannot therefore vote for a system which I believe puts barriers in the path of able students."
4.55pm: Damian Hinds has just sat down. Spoke well. Laura Kuenssberg is now picking up on last night's events at the '22. How much of an impact will they have on the vote later?
5.02pm: Gareth Thomas now winding up for Labour. MPs will begin coming back into the Chamber in large numbers, and a lot will be read, in terms of who sits where and speaks to whom, into how the voting will go.
5.04pm: Apologies. Incapable of writing for a few moments. Incapacitated by laughter. Thomas has just said that Labour didn't guillotine debate when in Government. Tim in the comments below reports that demonstrators are "showing their respect for democratic debate by lighting a big fire in Parliament Square".
5.08pm: Kuenssberg is hearing that Jenny Willott, Chris Huhne's PPS, is also resigning over fees.
5.10pm: Thomas isn't as smart as Denham. Just launched into a laboured, no pun intended, joke comparing Liberal Democrat Cabinet members to a Christmas pantomime. Won't help to win Liberal Democrat votes shortly.
5.12pm: Michael Crick reports that Tracey Crouch may abstain.
5.13pm: Willetts is up, both brains pulsating. Will he mention vampire bats?
5.14pm: The House has gone very quiet suddenly. And Willetts is starting very strongly.
5.15pm: Willetts rounding on Alan Johnson, quoting his former support for higher fees. Cheers from the Tory benches.
5.17pm: Confirmation that Willot has gone.
5.22pm: Willetts is on fire. Strong delivery, forceful speech, solid argument. What has John Hayes slipped into his tea?
5.25pm: Hughes Agonistes. He will abstain. Eyeless in Bermondsey.
5.24pm: Willetts has silenced the Labour benches and is into his final sentences. Subdued cheers from the Tory benches, though.
5.27pm: On screen for viewers, empty Chamber. Off screen, the Whips beg, bully, wheedle, flatter, cajole, shout, threaten, yell, compare numbers, panic, gossip and sweat. Where is David Davis?
5.29pm: Guido Fawkes claims that Lee Scott has resigned. Follows inevitably if he sticks to his guns and votes against the Government.
5.33pm: Paul Waugh writes: "Amazing scenes in Commons as Ed Mili personally lobbies Simon Hughes to vote No. Lib dem whip tells Mili to get lost."
5.36pm: James Forsyth: "Clegg coming in with Don Foster, nervously scanning his own benches."
5.41pm: Ayes 323, noes 302. Since the Government's natural majority is north of 80, the Government's vote has been squeezed severely. Purple smoke in Parliament Square. Now they're voting on the cap.
5.44pm: No division list yet, of course, but it'll be interesting to see how many Conservative abstentions there are, as well as votes in the No Lobby.
5.55pm: John Denham's charm offensive is no longer needed. Ed Miliband is laying into the Liberal Democrats. "The idea that they are a party you can trust has gone. The idea that they're a progressive party has gone."
5.58pm: Second vote – on a higher cap – passes by an identical majority, 21.
6pm: According to Crick, Jason McCartney voted against the Government. BBC saying that one mounted officer has been seriously injured.
6.02pm: CCHQ fighting – or twittering – back, trying to pin Ed Miliband down on his graduate tax plans. BBC says that Lee Scott abstained.
6.09pm: And now CCHQ's tweeting that Miliband's saying he can't promise to scrap the fees.
6.10pm: BBC reporting that the police have established a new security line in Whitehall. Again, they don't seem to have anticipated the scale of the protests. Echoes of the Siege of Millbank.
6.12pm: David Aaronovitch says that a lot of tweeting is "fairly hysterical", and that "May be that we see this in time as great day for Tories, dammit." Whatever happened to the Communist NUS President that I remember? This is what Aaron Porter will be like in 20 years. No, make that five.
6.13pm: Nick Robinson says that there was "a handful of Tory rebels".
6.16pm: Robinson says that Peter Bone told him: "I'm a Conservative, not a Coalitionist."
6.17pm: Crick quotes Conservative MP: "It has been a great day. This is what I came into politics for – to make bold, unpopular decisions in the national interest." Sounds like Michael Fallon on acid. Students screeching at BBC reporter who's a doppleganger for Matt Hancock. Is this his getaway plan?
6.22pm: Bone voted with the Government. "Extreme violence" being directed at police.
6.23pm: Aaron Porter blaming Liberal Democrats. There'll be no shortage of voices tonight saying that Clegg's finished, gone, a dead parrot. That he's ceased to be.
6.27pm: Nick Watt: "Lib Dem 3 way split embodied by office holders. Nick Clegg (yes), deputy Simon Hughes (abstained), Tim Farron president (no)." Three police officers in hospital.
6.37pm: Financial Times (£) told by Commons’ sources that the six Tory rebels over tuition fees were Andrew Percy, David Davis, Philip Davies, Mark Reckless, Jason McCartney and Julian Lewis. Abstentions came from Tracey Crouch and Lee Scott.
6.47pm: Riot police charging protesters who are smashing Treasury windows. (The Churchill statue has also been defaced.) Probably not the right moment to repeat George Osborne joke to lobby lunch today. "Father Christmas does exist – he just doesn't work at the Treasury."
6.48pm: Police spokeswoman saying kettled, or "contained" protesters won't be released – because if they were they couldn't be charged, and would cause more damage.
6.54pm: Almost half of Nick Clegg's MPs failed to support him, voting against him or abstaining – 28 out of 57 MPs.
21 voted against – Annette Brooke, Sir Menzies Campbell, Michael Crockart, Tim Farron, Andrew George, Mike Hancock, Julian Huppert, Charles Kennedy, John Leech, Stephen Lloyd, Greg Mulholland, John Pugh, Alan Reid, Dan Rogerson, Bob Russell, Adrian Sanders, Ian Swales, Mark Williams, Roger Williams, Jenny Willott, and Simon Wright.
7.02pm: Switched to Channel Four news. Jon Snow makes the BBC look like the Salisbury Review.
7.08pm: The list of the eight that abstained. Lorely Burt. Martin Horwood, Simon Hughes, Chris Huhne, Tessa Munt, Sir Robert Smith, John Thurso, and Stephen Williams.
7.08pm: Very good C4 reporter pointing out the preparations that the rioters had made.
7.13pm: Cable now on C4. Says that the Government had a better majority than Labour in 2004 on the same issue. But looks haunted and strained. He usually looks like an undertaker. This evening, he looks like the Undead.
And that's all from me. Over and Out.