Value Added Tax Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:31 pm on 8th February 2019.

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 12:31 pm, 8th February 2019

I thank everyone who has participated in the debate. We have raised a lot of issues that, once we have left the EU on 29 March, we can develop into important legislative proposals.

I am grateful to the Minister for reminding me of the time I spent in the Treasury as a PPS to the noble Lord Lawson, who did indeed understand the dynamic effect of tax reductions and who—incidentally—has since been a consistent critic of the ridiculous waste of public expenditure consequent on the Climate Change Act 2008 in his work for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, for which we should all pay him great tribute.

The Minister mentioned women’s sanitary products. He called the tampon tax ridiculous and unfair, saying we must abolish it as soon as possible, but he manifestly failed to say when. Does that not sum up the problem with the EU? It is always delaying and delaying while lacking the will to do anything. It duped us during the Cameron negotiations into thinking we could get our own way on this ridiculous tax, and yet it has failed to deliver since 2016, and my hon. Friend still does not know when it will deliver—we will, I hope, have left the EU before it happens.

I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Anne-Marie Trevelyan), for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge) and for Erewash (Maggie Throup) for their contributions. I hope that they will participate in the ongoing debate that I hope will develop across the country as people realise that VAT is no longer in a closed category and can be debated openly. Perhaps we will get to see the £40 billion shopping list of costings, too, because the public should be debating these things. We are bringing back control to this House partly to have more control over this great area of taxation, so why not have a much more rational and transparent debate?

I am grateful to Lyn Brown, who identified important issues around online VAT fraud. My hon. Friend the Minister was not able to respond on those issues in his remarks, but we should not allow that to pass unremarked, because if there is an £11.7 billion gap, we should be putting a lot of resource into seeing what we might be able to do about it.

I could not agree with the hon. Member for West Ham about VAT on school fees, but I do agree that we in this country should have the right to decide such issues for ourselves. If there were a Labour Government—God forbid—who imposed VAT on school fees, would it not be ridiculous if an incoming Conservative Government were then not able to remove VAT on school fees completely because, under existing EU law, they would have to leave VAT on school fees at the level of 5%? How ridiculous and undemocratic is that?

I have two options: withdraw the Bill, or put it to a vote of the House. I am confident that were I to put it to a vote, it would get a Second Reading, but I do not think there would be sufficient time in Committee and on Report to do it justice in this Session and, as my hon. Friend the Minister said, there is still the problem that we have not yet got to 29 March, so there are some things up in the air. It is easy for the Government to defend themselves against policy changes by saying that there is uncertainty, but I hope that that uncertainty will be resolved on 29 March. In order to remove the uncertainty relating to this Bill, however, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.