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Tories attack class 'envy'

Foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind has entered the election fray by condemning Labour's plans to scrap the assisted places scheme as "mean spirited".

Addressing a Tory rally on Tuesday at the independent Daniel Stewart's-Melville in the capital, Mr Rifkind said children from "modest backgrounds and means" would be prevented from taking advantage of opportunities at schools like Stewart's-Melville, where one in six pupils is subsidised by the scheme.

Abolition would damage state schools, especially in Edinburgh. Schools were already full and class sizes would rise. The Foreign Secretary also warned of "grave implications" for fees at independent schools if they lost the assisted places cash.

Raymond Robertson, the Education Minister, highlighted Labour's "spite and prejudice" in denying parent choice while Gillian Shephard, the Education and Employment Secretary, accused Labour and other parties of "class envy". Mrs Shephard defended elitism and said she could never understand why it was a dirty word to Labour, the SNP and Liberal Democrats but not to competitors in Germany and France.

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