A Labour government would extend free meals for all primary school pupils in England by imposing VAT on private school fees, Jeremy Corbyn announced on Thursday (6 March). The Labour leader claimed that the move will help make sure "no child is held back because of their background".
"No child in the UK should go hungry at school. By charging VAT on private schools fees, Labour will make sure all primary schoolchildren, no matter what their background, get a healthy meal at school," he said.
The policy could cost the government up to £900m ($1,125m) per year, according to the House of Commons Library. But a 2010 Fabian Society report claimed that by introducing VAT on private school fees the Treasury can raise £1.5bn.
Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner added: "While the Conservatives offer tax giveaways to their billionaire friends, they are cutting the schools budget and threatening the health and futures of all our children by denying children the basic right of a healthy lunch at school.
"By investing in our education system and providing free school meals for every primary schoolchild, we will remove the stigma attached to free school meals, and improve health and attainment for all children."
However, the proposal has been opposed by private school organisation the Independent Schools Council (ISC), with a warning that smaller private schools may be forced to close.
"Six hundred thousand children are educated in independent schools, saving the taxpayer the cost of educating them," said Julie Robinson, the general secretary of ISC.
"Independent schools are fully aware of their social responsibilities and offer free and reduced cost places to children from lower income homes. They also partner with state schools to offer support with sciences and languages, A-levels and university access, as well as sport and music."