Focus: Policy and Politics - Question Time - Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat peer

Will the OFT's ruling on price-fixing by independent schools affect the public benefit debate in the Charities Bill?

I should think that it is extremely likely to be used in the House of Commons when the Charities Bill goes there. I would be very surprised if it wasn't.

What do you think of the finding that higher fees were charged as a result of information-swapping between independent schools?

It strikes me that it's too soon to form a final judgement because we still have not heard what the schools have got to say. It looks like they've been caught with their hands in the till, but it may be that they can demonstrate that the purpose of all this was not to charge higher fees to parents but to have a sort of orderly comparability between them.

How do you think it has affected the image of independent schools in terms of public benefit?

It is definitely not good news for the image of independent schools in terms of public benefit, that much is certain.

Beyond that, I find it very difficult to believe that there's a direct read-across to the public benefit provisions.

Are you more optimistic about amending the public benefit aspect of the Charities Bill when it moves to the Commons?

No. I just don't see it. You've got a cast-iron embrace between the Conservative and Labour front benches. Whatever rebellion there is, and even if it's joined by a handful of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, it'll get nowhere. Our chance was in the Lords - and, as you know, that failed.

But I think the big thing the schools can fairly say is they're not profit-distributing organisations, and the issue of anti-competitive behaviour is therefore somewhat complicated.

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