Value Added Tax Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:35 am on 8th February 2019.

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 10:35 am, 8th February 2019

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I presented the Bill on 5 September 2017, and it is with a wry smile that I rise to speak to it today, with some four hours ahead of us—perhaps not all of that time will be needed to consider it. I put it down on the Order Paper for consideration very late in the Session because I anticipated that it would be a topical matter on the eve of our departure from the European Union. We are now just seven weeks away from the UK’s independence day, on 29 March, when UK citizens will end their enslavement by the European Union.

There has been a lot of discussion about trade, but leaving the EU is about much more than that; it includes control over our own taxes. Reducing VAT, as the Bill proposes, will reduce the cost of living for consumers and the burdens on business, and it will reduce significantly the cost of living for people living in fuel poverty, which is also topical, bearing in mind yesterday’s announcement that what we all thought would be a cap on fuel prices has turned out to be more like an opera hat—it can go up very significantly at short notice. The Bill is therefore particularly relevance at this time.

When the Prime Minister made her Lancaster House speech some two years ago, she talked about the UK being able to develop an alternative economic model in the event that the European Union tried to impose what are effectively punishment terms as part of the withdrawal agreement. I think that we are now in that situation. The deal that the European Union is offering is not satisfactory. We are moving towards leaving without a deal, but in circumstances in which it will be open to the Government to take back control over important parts of the economy, and VAT is an important part of that.

The history of VAT goes back to 1 January 1973, when the United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community and, as a consequence, purchase tax had to be replaced by value added tax, which came in on 1 April that year. The then Conservative Chancellor, Lord Barber, set a single VAT rate of 10% on most goods and services. That standard rate is now 20%, which indicates the increasing burden of taxation upon ordinary people up and down the country.