[Mr Lee Scott in the Chair] — Hot Takeaway Food (VAT)
Cathy Jamieson (Kilmarnock and Loudoun, Labour)
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Scott. I thank Stephen Gilbert for securing the debate. It was intended to take place prior to Prorogation and I am glad that it was rescheduled for this morning.
We have had an extremely interesting debate, with some very intelligent and well thought through contributions and suggestions on which the Government can act. A thing that struck me on this virtual tour of the UK—via train stations, football clubs and various forms of hot snack—is how much unites, rather than divides, the different parts of the United Kingdom. In this instance, most of us, at least, are united in support of the industries based in our communities. In this instance, the bad guys—to quote a term used by Nigel Mills—are the Government, but bad guys always have the opportunity to redeem themselves. I am sure that as we go through the Finance Bill, the Government will look at the suggestions made today and try to do so.
I want to cover a few points made by hon. Members. In his opening speech, the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay highlighted the real issues about the ambient temperature test and the potential problems in identifying what an ambient temperature is in different parts of the country. As those of us in the northern parts of the country know, we have yet to see any form of spring, never mind summer. Not only do we have geographical variations, but we could have different ambient temperatures on different days of the week.
How will the Government devise the system? Will people come round using thermometers, as Sheryll Murray said, or probe with a finger, as Nigel Mills suggested, to see whether hot snacks are above the ambient temperature? That seems to be nonsense.
During our deliberations on the Finance Bill Committee yesterday, my hon. Friend John Mann gave a useful exposition on the difference between a Bakewell pudding and a Bakewell tart, which I confess is something that I had not previously understood. That only goes to show that we learn something new every day. Indeed, I learned today that the hon. Member for South East Cornwall and I have a shared heritage, because I, too, am a baker’s granddaughter, although I am not from Cornwall and could not begin to explain how to crimp a pasty.
The issues raised this morning are similar to those raised when we discussed the matter on the Floor of the House. I sensed a sharp intake of breath when the hon. Lady asked what hot food had to do with football. I am a football supporter and have supported my local team, Kilmarnock, since I was a child. I certainly did not choose to do so on the basis that they were likely to win trophies, given that during my lifetime they have won something on only three occasions: 1965, 1997 and this year, when they won the Scottish communities league cup.
As a vegan, I confess that the delights of some of the pasties that have been mentioned have passed me by, although, as I said during the debate on the Floor of the House, my son is an avid eater of the Greggs steak bake and my husband often chooses, as a vegetarian, to enjoy the Greggs cheese and onion pasty at lunchtime. I do not necessarily partake of such delicacies, but when my local team played at this year’s cup final, a local bakery in my constituency decided that I should not lose out on the experience by not being able to eat a Killie pie—the Kilmarnock football club pie, which is reckoned to be the best in Scotland—and made me a vegan Killie pie.
I have still not received an answer to one of the questions that I asked during the debate in the main Chamber. If I buy two freshly baked Killie pies from my local Brownings the Bakers—should it choose to continue the production of that wonderful vegan pie—and decide to eat one there and then and take the other away so that it will have cooled down later, would one be VATable and the other not? That is an example of one of the dilemmas and anomalies that have been thrown up again by a number of Members during this debate. Members have also identified that any system of taxation and of collecting VAT needs to be understandable, enforceable and workable. As the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay pointed out during his opening speech, the proposals do not meet any of those tests.
I want to address some other points that have been raised. The second time that I sensed a sharp intake of breath and felt a shiver run down my spine—“shiver” seems to be the word of the week in relation to the economy—was when my hon. Friend Simon Danczuk suggested that samosas or pakoras could be taxed. Notwithstanding the popularity of the Scottish bridie, there are parts of Scotland for which samosas or, indeed, pakoras, have become more or less part of the staple diet. Thousands of constituents would be extremely concerned if there was an additional tax.