HC Deb 27 March 1975 vol 889 cc676-8
7. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the estimated total cost to the Exchequer of treating private fee-paying schools as charities; and whether he will now take steps to end the tax advantage of this status as it affects them.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Dr. John Gilbert)

The information on which to base a reply to the first part of the Question is not available. As to the second part of the Question, my right hon. Friend intends to pursue this matter as part of the wider question of the appropriate definition of a charity, as was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary during the Committee stage of the Finance Bill.—[Official Report, Standing Committee A; 5th February 1975, c. 914.]

Mr. Hamilton

Does my hon. Friend not agree that the Donnison Commission, which reported as long ago as 1968, produced figures and, therefore, it should not be impossible to update those figures? Does he recognise that the commission pointed out that there were 900 private schools which were regarded as charities, including all the public schools, like Eton and Harrow, which got enormous tax and rate concessions, which means subsidising the children of rich people? Will not the Labour Government now carry out their manifesto pledge to protect the poor and remove this kind of subsidisation of these people, which they do not deserve?

Dr. Gilbert

I shall be very surprised if my hon. Friend really believes that the Government have been subsidising the rich. There are some serious difficulties. The available figures of tax relief for charities do not distinguish between fee-paying schools and other charities. Secondly, they relate only to repayments of tax deducted at source.

As to the wider question which my hon. Friend has raised, I assure him that there is no difference between us.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Will the hon. Gentleman say what is the total saving to the Exchequer resulting from the fact that these children are educated at the expense of their parents and not at the expense of the State?

Dr. Gilbert

The real question is what pre-emption of very scarce resources is involved—

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

That is not what I asked.

Dr. Gilbert

But that is the important point—what pre-emption of very scarce and extremely skilled resources is made available to an extremely small and narrow section of the community.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister, I think inadvertently, answered the wrong question.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is a very old complaint in this place.

Back to