HC Deb 15 February 1972 vol 831 cc217-20
1. Mr. Hicks

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, in his examination of value added tax, he will consider the desirability of all products used in the building and timber trades being subjected to the same rate of tax; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Treasury (Mr. Terence Higgins)

We are considering all aspects of value-added tax but have no statement to make at this stage.

Mr. Hicks

Would my hon. Friend note that the building and similar trades tend to be composed of a large number of small units and that any unnecessary administrative work places a disproportionate burden on their resources? Is he aware that if varying rates of V.A.T. were to be included on the same invoice, as if the present Customs and Excise classification were to operate, confusion would certainly arise?

Mr. Higgins

Following publication of the Green Paper, this was a point put to us by many associations in the building and timber trades. We shall give it careful consideration.

Mr. Jay

Can the hon. Gentleman give upon us one good reason for introducing value-added tax?

Mr. Higgins

Yes. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman a number of very good reasons, most of which I deployed in the Finance Bill debates last year

Mr. Joel Barnett

Can the hon. Gentleman confirm that the likely rate of V.A.T. will be given in this year's Budget? Does he realise that without that industry will find it impossible to plan ahead?

Mr. Higgins

We have received representations on this point, too. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to await the statement which my right hon. Friend will make on Budget day.

14. Mr. Spearing

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish illustrative tables of the effects of introducing value-added tax at various stated rates on selected items of everyday and occasional consumption now subject to no or varying rates of purchase tax.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Maurice Macmillan)

We have under consideration suggestions of this type.

Mr. Spearing

Since we were promised open and honest government, will the right hon. Gentleman hurry this matter up and publish these tables? Would he agree that the introduction of value-added tax means that people with high discretionary income will have their income and purchasing power increased, whereas those with a low discretionary income will suffer a reduction? Could he confirm that fact?

Mr. Macmillan

The hon. Gentleman must await the Budget for any details. However, the hon. Gentleman's premise is wrong. At this stage it would be misleading and confusing to issue comparative tables on the basis of hypothetical V.A.T. rates and in the absence of any announced decision about the scope and coverage of the tax. It is usual at the time of changes in indirect taxation to issue such illustrative tables as the hon. Gentleman suggests, and we are considering how best to do this. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has indicated that at the time of the Budget debate he will produce details of the value-added tax in advance of the Finance Bill.

Mr. Emery

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that directly after the Budget the illustrations to which he has referred will be available for wide circulation throughout the country and to traders generally? This will need to be done on a much larger scale than is normally done on the application of some new tax, and is something in respect of which traders and the public will look to the Government. They will expect them to provide these details immediately after the Budget rather than to await publication of the Finance Bill.

Mr. Macmillan

I fully accept my hon. Friend's view that with a tax as new and as difficult as this, it is absolutely essential first of all that the traders who are to operate it should be fully informed: and, secondly, that the public affected by the tax should be fully informed as soon as possible.

Mr. Sheldon

But since the Government have repeatedly refused to make available to hon. Members discussion papers which have been widely circulated to industry and commerce in general, will the hon. Gentleman look at this matter again? Will he say why he has been unable to present these papers to hon. Members for discussion when they have been freely available to everybody else? Why should we be excluded from participation in important decisions of this kind?

Mr. Macmillan

The hon. Gentleman is not being excluded from participating in anything. The Customs and Excise Department is following its normal practice in discussing the administrative problems involved with the various trades and industries which will have to operate the tax, as far as they can be discussed without knowledge of the rates and the coverage, which my right hon. Friend will reveal in his Budget.