VAT on Air Ambulance Fuel Payments

Part of United Kingdom Borders – in the House of Commons at 5:41 pm on 11th July 2012.

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Photo of Mark Pawsey Mark Pawsey Conservative, Rugby 5:41 pm, 11th July 2012

I join colleagues in congratulating my hon. Friend Guy Opperman and Hugh Bayley on securing this debate. I contribute to it as the chairman of the new all-party group on the emergency services. We recently secured a Westminster Hall debate on the interoperability between the emergency services, including the role of the air ambulance, at which my hon. Friend spoke eloquently about his support for the air ambulance, on the basis of the motion before us. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments expressed by hon. Members and join them in putting on the record my support and thanks for the service that air ambulances provide up and down our country. They supply a crucial and critical service for which we should all be thankful.

Many hon. Members have given accounts of people who support the air ambulance service, and a friend of mine, Gill, was involved in a major road accident on a country lane. She suffered multiple breakages and was airlifted by the air ambulance to the local trauma centre and treated. Having been helped by our air ambulance, she, along with many others in the same position, is an effective and enthusiastic fundraiser for our local air ambulance. She trains as a volunteer, runs stalls, sells Christmas cards and collected funds at a rugby game played on “The Close” at Rugby school. This is a key feature of the air ambulance service: it is funded through donations and with the support of the community. That unique funding method not only encourages local people, but means savings to government.

Although I support the call for a Government review into VAT, I wish to raise one or two concerns about it, as I believe the House should hear them. I do this because of the approach taken by the air ambulance service, whose Warwickshire and Northamptonshire service covers my constituency. It argues that charities, such as air ambulances, should be working closely together and with the Government to make efficiencies within their organisations, and I have one or two suggestions as to how that can be done. In asking for caution, my case is based on the voluntary funding of the air ambulance service, depending, as it does, on the unique feature of donations from local and national companies. That key feature enthuses people to get involved because they know that currently the air ambulance service receives no Government or lottery funding. Most importantly, the Warwickshire service does not seek Government or lottery funding. In fact, it strongly argues that its independence from Government is what enables it to innovate and drive up service delivery standards.