From Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP <[email protected]>
Subject cutting tax on school uniforms
Date August 5, 2023 6:59 AM
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We have been campaigning for the Government to extend the VAT exemption for school specific uniform items.

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Good morning John

This has been another busy week of meetings, discussions, and representing people on many issues of concern but importantly getting wins for the people who vote for us.

On Tuesday, we met with the Government to discuss the further series of measures that are required to be delivered if we are to see our place within the United Kingdom fully restored following the disastrous impact of the Protocol.

We have consistently campaigned to ensure that the Protocol is replaced with arrangements that restore our rightful place within the UK and that those arrangements are able to command the support of Unionists as well as Nationalists.

We have been persistent in telling the Government that the outcome of the UK-EU negotiations, the Windsor Framework (WF), while undoubtedly representing significant progress across a number of areas does not deal with some of the fundamental problems at the heart of our current difficulties. That view was confirmed by many business, sectoral and community interests in our extensive consultation on the WF.

The Government knows that more work in this area is required by them if we are to secure the necessary conditions for a return to the Northern Ireland Executive. We will continue to engage in discussions with the UK Government on the basis of the paper collectively agreed by our Party Officers and submitted to the Government in June.

Without progress on these matters, those parties that would immediately take positions in government, know that such a move would be doomed to fail because the NI Executive would be built on shifting sands rather than solid foundations.

We are determined to secure further movement on this most vital of issues for the future of Northern Ireland and we will continue with our discussions in the coming period.

Next week the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar will be in Belfast and I will meet him to discuss matters of mutual concern between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. As a unionist party we will maintain our principled position in that we do not discuss internal Northern Ireland business with the Government of the Irish Republic but we will, in a spirit of co-operation, discuss matters of mutual interest between us.

Earlier in the week our Education Spokesperson Diane Dodds MLA, Cllr Jonathan Craig and I met with the Independent Review of Education ([link removed]) . This review was agreed through the New Decade New Approach Agreement and established by the then DUP Education Minister Peter Weir and carried forward by Michelle McIlveen MLA.

Our focus was on keeping our schools world-class by putting in place a fair funding model. There should be no favoured sectors. We support shared education in Northern Ireland, but we do not believe that any one sector is more deserving of funding than the other and in particular we want to see the balance redressed in relation to the Controlled sector. As a party, we believe in parental choice and to that end no child’s education should be disadvantaged as a consequence of the school chosen by their parents.

In March 2022, the then DUP Education Minister Michelle McIlveen announced a £794 million investment for 28 new schools benefiting some 25,000 pupils. ([link removed]) This has since been paused due to budget pressures.

It is unacceptable and inequitable that whilst major infrastructure projects have been paused due to budget constraints, at the same time the Secretary of State is telling the GAA that there is no issue with finding money to build a new facility at Casement Park. This will not go unchallenged.

We have been campaigning for the Government to review Northern Ireland’s funding formula. ([link removed]) This has been led by our Deputy Leader Gavin Robinson. We need to be able to deliver world class public services on a sustainable yet modern basis.

I believe we have won the argument on Northern Ireland’s funding formula needing to be reformed and we will continue to press for urgent action to underpin our public services.

Diane Dodds MLA and party colleagues have also been meeting senior officials in the Department of Education on several important matters including the recent RSE legislation passed in Westminster on the teaching of relationships and sex education in our schools. The Department of Education will be launching a consultation on this later in the month and we intend to make a substantive response to that consultation.

Finally, this week our Treasury spokesman in Westminster Sammy Wilson was pressing the Treasury ([link removed]) to help parents who are forking out hundreds of pounds every year on school uniforms. We have been urging the Government to extend the VAT exemption for school specific uniform items. Please click the link ([link removed]) to Sammy’s statement and share with your friends on social media.

Best wishes,

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP
DUP Leader
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