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 accept that point of view. There needs to be some control. We do not want one air ambulance to be competing with another for what we all accept are limited funds. That takes us back to my point about co-operation and interoperability. There may be a case for interoperability not only between air ambulances, but between air ambulances and other emergency services.

Those who support the charitable structure are concerned that it is not very many steps from a grant to offset VAT on fuel to the full nationalisation of the service, and the absorption of air ambulances into the ambulance service more generally. There might be some hon. Members in the Chamber for whom that would be a desirable move, but I believe that it would materially change the unique basis on which the service is delivered. It was interesting that it fell to John Healey to describe the air ambulance as probably one of the best examples of the big society.

There are other ways besides a VAT exemption in which the air ambulance can effect substantial savings. I argued in the Westminster Hall debate about the need for air ambulances and other emergency services to share assets. Earlier this week, I spoke at a Royal United Services Institute conference on the future operations of blue-light air assets. RUSI has produced research papers drawing attention to the fact that there is no co-ordination of air assets at this stage nationally or across agencies. If we investigate asset sharing we could effect savings that would be significantly in excess of the amount of savings that could be produced by reducing the costs of fuel.