AS thousands of students descend on London to protest against a rise in tuition fees, an MP who pledged to vote against the plans has defended his decision to abstain instead.

Just before the last general election, Ilford North MP Lee Scott was one of the few Conservatives to sign a high-profile petition which was circulated among MPs.

But as the Guardian went to press he revealed that he had now decided to abstain when the vote takes place today (Thursday).

He said: “I think it is keeping to the pledge, I said I would not vote for higher fees and I’m not voting for higher fees.”

However, the promise (right) Mr Scott actually made was to vote against an increase in tuition fees.

Mr Scott who won his seat with a majority of about 5,000, said it is likely to be two years before any fees are increased, and that he is examining alternative proposals for multi-national companies to sponsor individuals.

“It is a solution which is being worked on and it is looking quite favourable,” he added.

Mr Scott, who left school at 15 and later gained a business degree after attending night school, was pictured last year posing with former National Union of Students president Wes Streeting while holding a placard stating the exact wording of his pledge.

Mr Streeting, who has since been elected onto Redbridge Council as a Labour member for Chadwell, said: “I will be travelling to Westminster on Thursday to join students from Redbridge and other parts of the country to see that Lee Scott honours his pledge.

“He gave a clear and welcome commitment before the election and he owes it to his constituents to honour that promise now.

“Unless Lee Scott acts, higher fees will sail through Parliament and future generations will pay a very heavy price for his treachery.”

Mr Scott, a father-of-five, made his first step up the ministerial ladder this month when he was appointed a private parliamentary secretary in the Department of Transport, but would have to resign if he voted against the Government.

Mr Streeting added: “This would be a small price to pay for his constituents who face being saddled with eye watering levels of debt.”