Independent School Fees: VAT

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:19 pm on 21 February 2024.

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Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 5:19, 21 February 2024

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Henderson. Please allow me to start by congratulating my hon. Friend Andrew Lewer on securing the debate. What a pity we have only 60 minutes, because there was so much more to say here. We heard some fascinating and thoughtful contributions on the matter of independent school fees and VAT.

It will not surprise anyone present to hear that I agree wholeheartedly with Government Members, and I am very pleased to hear from our Lib Dem and DUP colleagues, who support the Government’s policy to allow independent school fees to be exempt from VAT for the many valid and obvious reasons expressed by hon. Members and right hon. Members today. Those include the incredible impact that they have on communities, the partnering, their impact on so many people’s lives, and the fundamental principle of choice.

I am afraid that what we have heard from the Opposition is what we hear consistently. Perhaps we might all be sighing with relief soon when we get the inevitable flip-flopping on this policy—I do not believe for one minute that it is wholeheartedly supported by Opposition Members. It is just virtue signalling of the highest order. It is complete left-wing populist virtue signalling by the Opposition, but the British public see straight through it. This Government understand the vital role that education plays in all our lives. Just this year, school funding will total about £57.7 billion, and next year it will be £59.6 billion. I am very proud to say that that will be the highest ever real-terms spending per pupil under the Conservatives.