Independent School Fees: VAT

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:27 pm on 21 February 2024.

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Photo of Andrew Lewer Andrew Lewer Conservative, Northampton South 5:27, 21 February 2024

I want to express my sincere thanks to so many colleagues. I had thought about having an Adjournment debate on this subject but I am so pleased that, rather than standing in the Chamber talking to myself, I have a large number of people in Westminster Hall to take part in the debate and make such useful and constructive contributions.

The proposed policy fails on the principle of freedom of choice and the principle of education being free of VAT. The idea of saying, “Well, we don’t want VAT on education apart from on the bits that don’t we like—apart from on the bits that we can give a bit of a class-warrior go at,” also fails in practice. For every report in one direction, there are others: the EDSK report and the Baines Cutler report are both independent and carefully researched reports that prove that this money, which has been spent dozens of times already, does not actually exist in the first place.

To me, the issue feels like the current Leader of the Opposition’s version of foxhunting. He needs to come up with something red-meaty to throw at his left to say, “Look, we’re still socialists and we’ll bash the rich and the elite.” Tony Blair did it with foxhunting, and now it is independent education. The difficulty is that this issue is so much more profound and more damaging than even that issue, which did cause problems for rural communities. This is much worse, much more broadly based and much more damaging.

I am delighted that so many colleagues have been able to pick up so many key points. The point about special educational needs that was made by several colleagues is particularly potent, and I shall certainly try to take that up in my ongoing work as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on independent education.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House
has considered independent school fees and VAT.

Sitting adjourned.