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Clegg Says Sorry for Breaking Pledge on U.K. Student Fees

Sept. 19 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg apologized for breaking his word by going back on a pre-election promise not to increase university tuition fees.

In a political advertisement to be broadcast on Sept. 24, Clegg said his Liberal Democrat party had been wrong to make the promise when its only chance of being in government was in a coalition with either the Conservatives or the Labour Party, both of which were committed to raising fees.

“It was a pledge made with the best of intentions, but we shouldn’t have made a promise we weren’t absolutely sure we could deliver,” Clegg said. “There’s no easy way to say this: we made a pledge, we didn’t stick to it --- and for that I am sorry.”

He added: “I will never again make a pledge unless as a party we are absolutely clear about how we can keep it. I accept that won’t be enough for everyone. But I owe it to you to be up front about it. And I don’t believe it should cast a shadow over everything else the Liberal Democrats are achieving in government.”

The move comes as Liberal Democrat activists prepare to gather in Brighton, England for their annual conference next week.

The party has seen its support fall to about 10 percent from 23 percent at the May 2010 general election. The vote to triple tuition fees in England and Wales to 9,000 pounds ($14,600) a year split Liberal Democrat lawmakers and led to violent protests in London.

Clegg continues to defend the decision to raise fees, saying it was fair and necessary to help tackle the budget deficit.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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