With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
That schedule 19 be the Nineteenth schedule to the Bill.
“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within two months of the passing of this Act, commission a review of the VAT treatment of the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, including but not limited to—
(a) an analysis of the impact on the financial position of Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service arising from their VAT treatment, and
(b) an estimate of the change to their financial position were they eligible for a refund of VAT under section 33 of the VAT Act 1994.
(2) A report of the review under subsection (1) must be laid before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.”
No VAT is charged for the buying of an adapted vehicle by or on behalf of a disabled wheelchair user. Unfortunately, this scheme, which supports disabled wheelchair users to live independently, has been fraudulently abused by unscrupulous individuals who make purchases under this relief and then sell the vehicles on for additional profit. For example, HMRC discovered that one person purchased 30 BMWs under the scheme in one day, while another individual bought 100 vehicles that I would describe as high-performance sports cars and the like in under two years. This is clear abuse of the scheme, and its integrity is being brought into question by such behaviour.
Clause 57 will tackle abuse of the relief, while ensuring that it remains available for those with disabilities. The changes made by clause 57 will restrict the number of vehicles that an individual, or someone on behalf of that individual, may purchase under the scheme to one every three years. That will stop fraudsters from purchasing multiple vehicles in one day, or over a prolonged period. The legislation recognises that, in some circumstances, a replacement vehicle may genuinely need to be purchased within the three-year period. In addition, the clause makes it mandatory for vehicle dealers to submit a declaration of eligibility for each car purchased under the scheme to HMRC and applies penalties to those found to abuse the scheme.
We expect that these changes will continue to support those whom it is intended to support, at a cost of about £40 million a year, while reducing fraud and saving up to £80 million of taxpayers’ money over the next five years. The Chancellor announced these changes at the autumn statement, and they were welcomed by key stakeholders. Disabled Motoring UK stated:
“Disabled Motoring UK is supporting the efforts of the Government to safeguard the scheme and make sure it is only accessed by eligible disabled motorists.”
The significant fraudulent abuse of the current scheme means that it must be changed. It is our intention to tackle this fraud, but continue to offer the financial support to disabled wheelchair users to lead independent lives. I therefore move that clause 57 stand part of the Bill.
Let me turn now to new clause 2, which was tabled by Kirsty Blackman. We return to a subject that has had the odd outing in this Chamber before—I am talking about the issue of VAT on the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. The new clause requests that the Treasury commissions a review of the VAT treatment of the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, reporting the cost of VAT to them at present and how this would change if they were eligible for refunds.
Let me recap some of the comments that have already been made from this Dispatch Box. To receive section 33 VAT refunds, a body must receive funding through local taxation and perform a function of a local authority. In 2012, the Scottish Government restructured their regional police and fire services into two national bodies, Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. Both are funded centrally, rather than through local taxation, and therefore do not—
Let me just complete the exposition of why these bodies do not qualify.
Both of those new bodies are funded centrally rather than through local taxation and therefore do not meet the eligibility criteria for section 33 VAT refunds. The Treasury warned the Scottish Government in advance that making these changes would result in the loss of VAT refunds. In deciding to go ahead, the Scottish Government fully considered the costs and benefits of doing so, including the loss of VAT refunds. Therefore, there is no additional benefit to be had from the Government committing resource and time to produce a report on this issue. I therefore urge the Committee to reject new clause 2.
Again, those are matters that have been covered before. I refer the hon. Lady to comments that I have made previously in response to very similar interventions. These measures have been discussed not just in Finance Bills, but during the passage of the Scotland Bill. Again, the message was the same that this was a decision taken in the full knowledge of the VAT consequences. Once again, I urge the House to reject the new clause that calls for a review.
If the Minister changes the VAT treatment of the Scottish police and the fire and rescue service, I promise not to raise the matter again in the House. I can see that she is fed up with discussing it, but, frankly, so am I. If the Government were to move on this, we would not have to raise it again.
I agree with my colleague. We have a portion of VAT devolved to the Scottish Parliament, which does not make a huge amount of sense. Although we obviously welcome any new powers coming to the Scottish Parliament, it would be much better if we had control over all of VAT, rather than have a portion of the income from VAT coming to us.
The Scottish police and the fire and rescue service are charged VAT unlike Highways England, which is a national English body, and unlike London Legacy, which is a national UK-wide body. The UK Government have created exemptions for both of those organisations, but not for Scottish police and Scottish fire. This costs the Scottish people, because Scottish police and Scottish fire are having to pay this VAT bill to the UK Government rather than having this money to spend.
This VAT charge is costing Scotland’s emergency services tens of millions of pounds a year. Does my hon. Friend agree that our constituents would rather that this money was spent on fighting crime and funding emergency services in Scotland than on plugging the holes in the Tory Government’s budget because of their poor financial planning and budgeting?
I absolutely agree with my colleague.
In June 2016, it was reported that, since it was formed three years previously, Scotland’s single police force has paid £76.5 million in VAT, and it remains unable to claim that tax. The UK Government have created exemptions for other bodies that they see as important. Why do they see London Legacy and Highways England as more important than Scottish police and Scottish fire? We again ask the UK Government to change that.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 57 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.