What, if any, indication has been received from the Commission about zero rates of value added tax? Will my right hon. Friend reflect that many of us, even though we be possessed of only the meanest intelligence, believe that the authority of the House turns upon the test of ultimate sovereign control over rights of taxation, and that we wish to be assured that that authority will remain undiminished?
I certainly would not put my hon. Friend in the category to which he referred. He will recall that under the European Communities Act there can be no question of additional taxation being charged without legislation in the House, and there can be no question of the Community's agreeing on a harmonised VAT, whether or not it involved the ending of zero rating, without a unanimous vote of all the members. That position is unchanged. I understand that the directive allows the continuance of zero rating for the time being.
As Commissioners of the European Commission seem to enjoy coming to Britain rather than answering questions in the European Parliament—[An HON. MEMBER: "Assembly."]—in the European Assembly, does the Chancellor know whether the gentleman referred to in the Question is likely to answer questions from the British delegation at that Assembly on the important matter of zero rating?
We have made it abundantly clear to the Commission and to our partners that we regard the zero-rating element of the value added tax as of the utmost social benefit—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer"]—and I am confident that in the years ahead our partners will appreciate the truth of that in their circumstances.