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Locked [Politics] PMQs: Keir Starmer calls on Rishi Sunak to end 'scandal' of private school tax breaks


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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to end the "scandal" of tax breaks for private schools.

Private schools can claim charitable status so are eligible for tax relief.

During Prime Minister's Questions, Sir Keir highlighted the Mr Sunak's old school, Winchester College, and asked why it received "taxpayers' money".

But Mr Sunak accused the Labour leader of "attacking the hard-working aspiration of millions of people".

Most private schools have charitable status, which means they are exempt from paying VAT on school fees.

In England and Wales, private schools with charitable status also get at least 80% relief on business rates.

However, in Scotland this discount was removed in April.

State and private schools cash gap doubles - study

Sir Keir clashed with Mr Sunak over the issue during PMQs and took aim at Mr Sunak's old independent school.

"Winchester College has a rowing club, a rifle club, an extensive art collection, they charge over £45,000 a year in fees," he said.

"Why did [the prime minister] hand them nearly £6m of taxpayers' money this year in what his Levelling Up Secretary [Michael Gove] calls egregious state support?"

Mr Sunak responded: "Whenever he attacks me about where I went to school, he is attacking the hard-working aspiration of millions of people in this country, he's attacking people like my parents.

"This is a country that believes in opportunity not resentment. He doesn't understand that and that's why he's not fit to lead."

In a 2017 column for the Times, Mr Gove asked how tax breaks for private schools were "justified", describing this as "egregious state support".

A YouGov poll in September found 47% of people thought private schools should lose their tax exemptions.

But the Independent Schools Council has warned Labour's proposals to charge VAT on private school fees would "have the greatest impact on the families who work the hardest to pay the fees", describing the idea as a "tax on aspiration".

It said the policy would "threaten the survival of the smallest independent schools" and see more pupils move to the state sector, putting more pressure on the schools budget.

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Sir Keir suggested the money for private school tax exemptions would be better spent driving up standards in the state sector.

If it wins power, Labour has said it would use the savings to fund the "most ambitious school improvement programme for a generation".

In response Mr Sunak said the government had already announced billions more in funding for state schools and standards had improved under the Conservatives.

Sir Keir also used PMQs to attack Mr Sunak as "weak", highlighting an attempt by some Tory MPs to ban mandatory housebuilding targets in England.

The government delayed a vote after nearly 50 rebels backed the idea.

Sir Keir said Labour would lend the government the votes it needs to pass the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill with mandatory housing targets.

link: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-63806421

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