Sacked Cabinet minister calls for loyalty to PM

Restive Tories must get behind Theresa May as she battles the "almost impossible" task of negotiating Brexit, Justine Greening has said.

The sacked Cabinet minister insisted she remains a "firm supporter" of the Prime Minister and said she was disappointed by the "soundings off" about her leadership.

Increasingly public criticism of Mrs May's leadership from the backbenches has fuelled speculation she will face a leadership challenge.

Ms Greening told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I remain a strong backer of the Prime Minister. I've been very disappointed to see the soundings off.

"I think they need to stop and I think people need to get behind her.

"I think she is doing an important job for our country. We need to support her in that impossible, almost, task that she has negotiating Brexit."

Ms Greening said she would back Mrs May if she wants to lead the Tories into the next general election.

"If she wants to do that she will have my full support," she said. "I think she has been very clear she will take soundings from our party in the run up to that election. I remain a firm supporter of the Prime Minister."

Ms Greening was sacked in the PM's reshuffle earlier in January after refusing to move from her education post to the Department of Work and Pensions.

She called for a more "progressive" system to cover living costs for university students than maintenance loans, which replaced grants.

"That means, I think wrongly, to be perfectly frank, that young people from more disadvantaged poorer backgrounds are coming out like for like on the same course with more debt than their better off peers," she said.

Ms Greening said the Government needs to recognise that most students won't pay off debt they graduate with but suggested the money raised from tuition fees should be ring-fenced for the higher education system.

The former education secretary said she had been against a review of student finance because "the danger of a review is that you just kick things into the long grass".

Sam Gyimah said there would not be changes to student finances in time for the new academic year.

The Universities minister said that while tuition fees were an issue "so are living costs".

He told the programme: "What we want to do is look at the whole system of student finance in the round."

But Mr Gyimah insisted it was "not credible" to say a review could be carried out in the next seven months.

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