Paul Flynn: Are you saying that there is no financial advantage to an independent school in being a charity?
Matthew Burgess: Lord Hodgson opens his review by saying the oldest charity in England and Wales is actually a school, King’s School, Canterbury. Your point to me is that they should not have charitable status. My answer is they are the oldest charities in the country.
Paul Flynn: My point is I can’t see how you equate teaching the sons and daughters of prime ministers to feeding the starving in Africa, which you seem to be doing.
Matthew Burgess: No, you are making a very stereotyped statement.
Paul Flynn: The argument put forward is that somehow you are creating an advantage to the general population by providing education for children, but you are also creating a disadvantage by taking out of the system that 95% of the children in the country enjoy some of the leaders and those who set the paces. In countries that don’t have this division between fee-paying, privileged schools and schools that—
Chair: Is that the problem, Mr Burgess, that some people think independent schools are a public dis-benefit?
Matthew Burgess: Indeed they do and views very similar to those were expressed by one of the intervening parties in our judicial review but those views were dismissed as being completely irrelevant to the context of charitable status, which is what we are here to talk about today.
Paul Flynn: You said when you started you did not want to say anything about poor legislation, Ms Quint, in this. Lord Butler, who is a great observer and commentator on these matters, said in the last Parliament 75 laws were enacted, went through the whole system, the Royal Assent, but were never implemented. Nothing happened to them. We are very bad at legislating. If you want to look at an example it is the 2006 Act, which intended to do one thing and clearly failed to do it. The intention was to make the fee-paying schools accountable, to justify the reason they should have charitable status, and now that is not happening. What do we need in 2015 when a new Labour Government looks at this again and introduces a new Act? How will they get it right next time?
Matthew Burgess: There are so many assumptions behind that question that I am not sure where to begin. I am not sure that the 2006 Act was there to disestablish independent schools. If it was we would have had—
Paul Flynn: I did not say that.
Matthew Burgess: —a very different legal challenge. It would not have been a judicial review of the Charity Commission guidance. It would have been a challenge of the fundamental human right of parents to choose education systems for their children.
Paul Flynn: You are ignoring the question, I am afraid.
Matthew Burgess: No, I am answering the question.
Paul Flynn: You are having difficulty understanding it. I will try to speak in simpler language as we do, those of us who came from good comprehensives in good Labour areas, rather than being confused by the public school system. The whole point of the Act was to say to the privileged schools, the fee-paying schools, that you must establish why you are producing a benefit for the rest of society, and now you don’t have to do that because the Act was a mess.