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

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct; the broader societal benefit of many of our private schools is considerable. That is one of the reasons why many, although not all, have charitable status. They provide all sorts of benefits, including through opening up for sports provision.

The Government are not alone in having concerns about Labour’s current policy. Labour’s own shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Darren Jones, spoke out against its planned tax rise before he joined the Front Bench, telling students that he did not believe the policy would bring in the money that his party was promising. Of course, that has not stopped Labour from spending the money several times over already, and it does not have a plan to pay for the potential incremental costs.

I will bring my comments to a close, but I must express a slight disappointment: much as it is always a pleasure to have the hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood in this Chamber, I am normally faced in these debates by my opposite number, James Murray. I must share an irony in that situation: I stand here today as a proud product of a comprehensive state school education nevertheless supporting the role of private schools in the UK and the principles of freedom of choice, aspiration, opportunity and social mobility.

My Labour counterpart is a product of the private school system yet is advocating a policy that could potentially restrict access to the very system from which he has himself benefited, as indeed have many Members on the Opposition Benches. I find that quite ironic and hypocritical, but I will never criticise somebody for the choices made by their parents. We do not do that on this side of the Chamber, but a little bit of humility in this debate might be appreciated. A good education for all is a priority for this Government, and I hope hon. Members from across the House will work with us to deliver it.