Vince Cable said today the Liberal Democrats are "united" despite last night's rebellion over the rise in student tuition fees.

The Business Secretary, who drew up the plans to raise the maximum fee level to £9,000, said the coalition would be "stronger for the experience".

As protesters clashed with police outside the House of Commons, inside MPs voted in favour of the first motion to bring tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000 by a majority of 21, much lower than the coalition Government would have hoped.

There were 323 votes in favour, and 302 against. MPs also voted by the same majority for a basic upper fees threshold of £6,000.

The Twickenham MP revealed exclusively to the Richmond and Twickenham Times last Friday that he would support the proposals.

He said: "Obviously I have a duty as a minister to vote for my own policy - and that is what will happen."

Speaking today, Dr Cable said: "It was a difficult day but I think we are stronger having been through this experience.

"We are united, we will go forward and I think the coalition will be stronger not weaker for the experience."

He admitted ministers still had a challenge to explain the policy to the public and why it was fairer than the current system of student finance.

He denied there had been any "horse trading" over the vote.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today show: "I think my colleagues accepted, however they voted, that I and my colleagues in the government, we acted responsibly, that we had protected universities and maintained them as viable and strong institutions and produced a policy towards future graduates which is fairer and more progressive than the system we inherited."

The fee rises will come into effect from September 2012.