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Top minister tells Tories: National debate on tuition fees may be needed

University tuition fees are currently capped at £9,250. Credit: PA

The Conservative Party needs to "change hard" if it wants to woo young educated voters away from Jeremy Corbyn's Labour, Theresa May's most senior minister has said.

Damian Green said Britain may need to have a national debate on university tuition fees, as he acknowledged that student debt is a "huge issue".

Labour unexpectedly eroded the Tories' Commons majority in last month's General Election after Mr Corbyn pledged to scrap tuition fees, which are currently capped at £9,250.

Asked about his message for students who backed Labour and are angry about being saddled with debt, Mr Green, who was delivering a speech to the Bright Blue liberal conservative think tank in central London, replied: "I think this is clearly a huge issue.

"I think in the long term we've got to show that they are getting value for the money.

Damian Green said the country may need a national debate on tuition fees. Credit: PA

The First Secretary of State continued: "If we want to have 40% plus of people going to university and if we want those university courses actually to be valuable, which I think is where the strain is often taken in European universities - you actually look at the teaching that you get in some European universities, you have lecture halls with 600 people in and things like that, it's not actually as good a teaching and learning experience as you get in this country."

He added: "If you wanted to say you want to reduce that (fees) then either fewer people go to university or the experience would be less.

"Because the only other way you can get extra money to go in, if you wanted the same number of people, the same kind of teaching, would be to take it from working people through their taxes.

"Governments have to take money from everyone at work and companies that provide jobs to provide those essential services.

"And it may well be that this is a national debate that we need to have."