'Trickle down education!': Keir Starmer clashes with Rishi Sunak over private schools keeping millions in tax breaks

30 November 2022, 13:37 | Updated: 30 November 2022, 14:15

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer clashed over school fee VAT at PMQs
Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer clashed over school fee VAT at PMQs. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Rishi Sunak has been grilled over why the Government handed over £6m to his former private school.

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer asked why so much money was kept by Winchester College in tax breaks despite parents paying tens of thousands of pounds to send their pupils there.

He claimed the sum came from the college saving on VAT on school fees.

During a fiery exchange during Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Sir Keir branded Mr Sunak's defence of private schools getting tax breaks as "laughable".

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

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

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Keir Starmer blasts 'laughable' tax breaks for private schools.

Mr Sunak said: "I'm pleased he wants to talk about schools, because we have recently announced billions more funding for our schools.

"We're helping millions of the most disadvantaged children catch up with their lost learning. And we're driving up school standards.

"During Covid, he wanted to keep schools closed. We shouldn't be surprised because I listen to parents and he listens to his union paymasters."

Sir Keir then threw back to criticism of "trickle down" economics that emerged during Liz Truss's disastrous month in office.

"Trickle down education is nonsense," he went on.

"His education minister asks how much better it would be if the Tories get rid of handouts."

He estimated the Government gives away £1.7bn to schools annually and added that money could be put "to good use", to which Mr Sunak replied that the Government "recently announced billions more funding for our schools".