Clause 66 — VAT: refunds to certain charities

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 25th March 2015.

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Photo of Shabana Mahmood Shabana Mahmood Shadow Minister (Treasury) 3:45 pm, 25th March 2015

That was not even a valiant attempt to try to answer my questions, but the hon. Gentleman is not on the Front Bench and I suppose I am being a little uncharitable in suggesting that he cannot answer a question that his own Chancellor is not prepared to answer either.

We have numbers of £12 billion, £13 billion and £5 billion from the Chancellor, yet with all the might of the Treasury behind him and lots of officials to do the numbers we have no detail on how those figures will be found. The Government spent a whole Parliament trying to talk up their record on tax avoidance and they are saying that they will get £5 billion in the next Parliament, yet there is no detail on how those amounts will be made up and no guarantee that they will be delivered. I am not surprised that the hon. Gentleman cannot answer those questions if those on the Government Front Bench will not either.

The Conservative party’s plans for what they would like to do if elected in a few weeks’ time are extreme and go much further than deficit reduction. They are trying to deliver a surplus of £7 billion. That had to be changed from the previous desire to get a surplus of £23 billion, because the Government got spooked by recognition across the country of what that would mean for the size of the state. They have now come down to £7 billion, which still means that they have to go further and faster in the early part of the next Parliament than they have in the previous five years.

Those choices have to be paid for. Given that some budgets are protected and that commitments to international development and aid spending will not change, and given the scale of what the Conservative party wants to achieve with the country’s finances, it is physically not possible to do such things without putting the NHS at risk of cuts or potentially of charging, or of raising VAT. That is the charge being made—it is not just about the history and the record. The hon. Gentleman could have resiled from the Conservative party’s record, but he chose not to do so. The combination of the Conservative party’s history on VAT and its figures for the next Parliament tells us that if it is elected a VAT rise is coming. There can be no doubt about it, given the combination of those two factors.

The hon. Gentleman attacked our plans and commitments, but for every commitment that involves raising revenue, we have highlighted where that revenue will come from and we have made the figures public. It was the Labour party that called for the OBR to conduct an independent audit of all parties’ manifesto commitments. We could have avoided this debate if we had allowed the OBR to do so. I was very happy to submit my party’s plans to an independent audit. I wonder why the Government chose not to do so. Perhaps they had something to hide. Perhaps they did not want to be robbed of the ability to have a “tax bombshell”-type poster. The needs of the Conservative party’s election marketing material should not have trumped the responsible thing to do: to allow the OBR independently to audit all parties’ manifesto commitments. I was very happy for that to happen.

The bankers’ bonus tax would pay for one policy and one policy alone: the compulsory youth jobs guarantee. [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman thinks the stubbornly high rate of youth unemployment is a laughing matter, he is mistaken. The Conservatives stole a few of our policies in last week’s Budget. Rather than laughing off the idea of the bankers’ bonus tax, I would have been happy for them to have stolen that policy, as it would have delivered jobs for the young people in my constituency who could find themselves on the jobs scrap-heap for many years to come. The Conservatives should have adopted it; it would have made a real and practical difference.