Independent School Fees: VAT

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:06 pm on 21 February 2024.

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Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman Conservative, Fareham 5:06, 21 February 2024

I thank my hon. Friend Andrew Lewer for leading the debate. Frankly, this Labour party policy is a viciously cynical ploy to allow Labour to masquerade as class warriors and as the working-class heroes taking on the elite. However, the reality is that they are champagne socialists pretending to be social justice champions. This policy is not about education, outcomes, the welfare of children or supporting the British people: it is about division and removing choice. It will harm educational outcomes and cause hardship. Far from being the class warriors of our age, Labour will become the party that kills off social mobility through this tax on aspiration, personal choice and responsibility, and social mobility.

There are three reasons why the policy is misguided. First, independent schools are positive for the economy. They contribute £16 billion to the economy, support 300,000 jobs contributing £5 billion in tax revenue, and save the taxpayer £4 billion by educating pupils outside the state sector. All of that would be put at risk by this ill- thought-out policy. Secondly, special education schools will be hard hit by this punitive policy. There are 96,000 pupils at SEND schools who are not on an EHCP and, simply put, they will be put at risk by the policy. Where will those children go when these special schools are put out of business? Many specialist schools in the state sector are already over-subscribed. Lastly, this tax on aspiration will simply push many poorer pupils out of good-quality schools, and parental choice will be destroyed.

I feel passionate about this policy. I stand against it because of my own personal educational journey. We will all have personal experiences and views informed by our own education, but mine is apposite. My parents were working-class people; they were migrants who came here with nothing. They themselves had poor educations in Mauritius and Kenya, so they valued the opportunity to give me a good chance at getting educated. I started in a local state school, where the teachers would go on strike every week, outcomes were poor and discipline was bad. However, my parents had a choice. Through scrimping, saving and sacrifice, they got me into a small independent private school. From that school, I got into Cambridge, I practised as a barrister and I made it to Parliament. I would not be here if it were not for their sacrifice and the great small private school that my parents had the choice to send me to.