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

Nothing. It need not be anything. In order to be transparent, whether it be on cigarettes, fuel or any other item subject to excise duty, it should just be excise duty, which could be set at whatever level the Chancellor or Parliament chooses. It should not be distorted and disguised by adding extra VAT. When the Chancellor increases the excise duty on a bottle of whisky, he never says, “By the way, it is also going to be subject to 20% VAT.” He puts VAT on the increase in excise duty. Why do we not make it simpler and more transparent? That is what clause 2 would achieve. I am glad that my hon. Friend has been softened up, and I hope he sees the benefits.

Clause 2(3) properly defines domestic fuel or power in some detail, which I hope will meet with the approval of interested colleagues. As I said earlier, items under groups 18 to 22 are less well defined in the Bill, although the items in group 22 are specifically defined.

We were told by the EU that women’s sanitary products would be, or could be, exempted from VAT. We were told there would be an EU consultation. That was all the talk when the former Prime Minister David Cameron was trying to negotiate a better deal for the United Kingdom in the European Union. Women’s sanitary products being subject to VAT is a controversial issue, but nobody seemed to be prepared to stand up and defend such a policy. In the end, the European Union promised that it would consult and look at it with a view to amending the policy, but it never did. That has resulted in the Government having to continue charging VAT, and they have used the revenue generated therefrom for other purposes. What a ridiculous distortion. What a waste of energy. Why cannot we just change the law and do what we think suits us best as an individual Parliament, and not be subject to the ghastly laws of the European Union?

I have explained some of the Bill’s content, but it only touches the surface—a starter for 10—because I see the opportunities opening up beyond 29 March. We will have the opportunity to change our laws on VAT much more imaginatively than we could with this Bill, and I will give just one example.

In order to protect and encourage British manufacturing after 29 March, why could we not remove VAT on all cars, or any other product, manufactured 100% in the United Kingdom? Obviously we cannot do that at the moment because of the VAT rules and the European Union state aid rules. If we want to generate a dynamic offshore economy in which taxes are low but with strong incentives for manufacturing, why not do something like that? It might be a step too far for this Bill, but I put it down as a marker. It will be interesting to see whether my hon. Friend the Minister has a briefing on such a proposal. When the Prime Minister said that no deal is better than a bad deal, she said that no deal would be really good because it could enable us, as a United Kingdom, to develop a dynamic alternative economic model.

There is a lot of food for thought in this Bill, and I remind my hon. Friends that it is not within its scope to increase VAT or to remove any exemptions. Before they get on their hobby horses and say that we need more money from VAT and from consumers, I remind them that that is outside the Bill’s scope.