D&S column: Chancellor agrees to fairer schools funding formula

THE Autumn Statement and the Comprehensive Spending Review was the big event of the Westminster week and it contained some very good news.

The Chancellor’s announcement about scrapping the unfair formula which discriminates against schools in North Yorkshire and other rural areas will have a lasting impact on our children’s future.

The details about a new formula have still to be thrashed out but I am confident that pupils in North Yorkshire will get a better deal.

Since launching my campaign on the issue support from constituents has been tremendous. The petition which the pupils from Wensleydale presented to No 10, together with the campaigns mounted by other MPs in rural constituencies, helped to make the case for change.

Thanks to everyone who signed the petition since the launch at Scotch Corner seven weeks ago, especially those of you who spoke to me at our street stall in terrible weather in Northallerton and again on a bitterly cold morning last Friday in Stokesley. Special thanks to Janet Bowes of the Stokesley Diner for the coffee and the bacon sandwich. It was really appreciated.

I WAS also in Stokesley this week for the first anniversary of the Thirsty Thursday business networking event.

There was a great turnout of the area’s business community. It was gratifying to hear about some of the growing small businesses in the area and speak to the people running them. The spirit of entrepreneurship in Stokesley is clearly strong.

I particularly enjoyed talking to singer-songwriter Alistair James who has a music tuition business and has also recently returned from New York where he has recorded an album. His music has been played on the BBC and I’m looking forward to hearing the single from the album which will be released shortly.

SOME constituents have asked me about the way I voted in the Commons over VAT on sanitary products – the so-called tampon tax.

Of course I completely agree that sanitary products are not a luxury item and I support calls for the UK to be able to apply a zero rate of VAT to reflect this fact. The problem is, as members of the EU, the British parliament does not have the power to do this. As things stand, the current five per cent rate of VAT on women's sanitary products is the lowest rate currently allowed under EU law.

Ministers will seek a change in EU law to abolish VAT on these products – and until that point, as the Chancellor announced on Wednesday, the money generated by the tax will be diverted to women’s charities – a move I am sure everybody will welcome.

But any change to EU VAT law would require the support of all 28 member states and the process would not be a formality as 26 of the other states currently have a higher rate of VAT on sanitary products than we do.

For better for worse, while we are members of the EU we have to abide by EU legislation.