UK coronavirus news: Boris Johnson apologises for 'misspeaking' on lockdown rules in north-east England

PM had struggled to explain new restrictions; Williamson says students can go home for Christmas – but might have to self-isolate first

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In his Commons statement Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, also announced that he will be seeking to dock vice chancellors of their bonuses as a result of what he described as the “crisis”.

Laura Trott, the Conservative MP for Sevenoaks, asked Williamson to consider stopping university leaders receiving bonuses this year unless students having to take online courses had their fees lowered.

Calling the question “incredibly important,” Williamson said “excessive vice chancellor pay” remained a problem and revealed that he will ask the higher education regulator for England, the Office for Students, to intervene. He said:

I’ll be asking for the Office for Students to look at this and give very strong and clear steers on this matter, to ensure that there aren’t bonuses going out as a result of this crisis.

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Gavin Williamson has now finished his Commons statement on students returning to university. Many MPs spoke out strongly in favour of student life being allowed to continue normally as far as possible. Here are some examples.

Sir Edward Leigh (Con) said:

We cannot destroy the life chances of the young. If you’re doing history, you cannot be condemned to permanent online teaching, you might as well sit at home. Why have you paid all this money?

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The climate of fear deliberately created by ministers and their advisers has done untold damage to individuals and the economy as a whole. It’s now hit students and universities with lock-ups of students, students being denied face-to-face education and unable to engage in the activities we’d normally associate with student life – and yet they’re expected to pay the full price for this sub-standard opportunity in higher education.

Surely the right approach is despite the virus we all have to get on with our lives as best we can, and that includes students.

Going to university is the most amazing opportunity. Yes, it will be different this year. But our young people are durable, they are flexible, and they will take this opportunity that is afforded to them in the way that generations before them have.

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