It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Mr Hood. I want to say first how much my hon. Friend Mr Love, who is no longer in his place, has been valued in our economic debates. His contribution will be missed, and we all wish him well for the future.
The new clause is eminently reasonable, and it should not be a matter of dispute between the parties in the House that such a report would make a valuable contribution to any decision the Government take on VAT. We have had an interesting day on VAT because it was raised in Prime Minister’s questions. As hon. Members know—certainly the Minister will know—VAT is a subject in which I have an interest. Throughout this Parliament, I have pressed not just the Government Front-Bench team but the Labour Front-Bench team on the issue of VAT.
The Prime Minister is an honourable man. He has made a commitment from the Dispatch Box today that is different from the position outlined by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Treasury Select Committee only yesterday. I am interested to see the Treasury Minister nodding to confirm that there has, in fact, been a change in Government policy since yesterday. When I woke up this morning, I heard on the “Today” programme my hon. Friend John Mann questioning the Chancellor on the issue of VAT. I heard the Chancellor set out the same mantra that there were no plans to extend VAT or increase its rate. My understanding of what the Prime Minister said today is that he has given a cast-iron guarantee—to use a phrase that the Prime Minister has used before—not to extend or increase the rate of VAT.
So the position has changed today, and it is a change that I welcome. For that reason, I think that the information requested under the new clause would be valuable. It is always better for us all to have more information about the impact of tax changes. We know, of course, that this Government introduced this tax change in June 2010 when they said that they would eliminate the deficit by 2015. The plan—the “long-term economic plan” then—was to eliminate it by 2015, and part of the plan was to increase the rate of VAT. It would be valuable to know what happened as a result of the raising of VAT in January 2011. In my constituency, people are under real financial pressure, and VAT affects all of us.