HC Deb 22 December 1983 vol 51 cc555-6
11. Mr. Chope

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will introduce the same scheme for value added tax payment for outside contractors for local authority school meals services as has been introduced for outside contractors for hospital meals.

Mr. Peter Rees

Local authorities can already reclaim the tax on the meals they purchase from outside contractors for supply to their pupils.

Mr. Chope

I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for his reply, so far as it goes —

Mr. Dobson

Declare your interest.

Mr. Chope

Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that when the outside contractor wishes to deliver a meal direct to the pupil it is not so straightforward? Will he state what can be done about the incidence of value added tax in those circumstances? For the benefit of all hon. Members, I can say that I have no interest in this matter whatsoever, other than as a ratepayer and someone who is concerned about reducing costs.

Mr. Rees

My hon. Friend's concern for this problem inside and outside his constituency is rightly well known and applauded. He is right. If a contractor supplies meals direct to pupils, that is subject to VAT. If, however, there are any problems in my hon. Friend's constituency that he would like to draw to our attention, we shall see what proper advice can be given.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Before the Government show any generosity in this direction, will they reflect that they are forcing local authorities to increase school meal charges dramatically next April, and that they should be using any spare money to reduce the pressure on local authorities to increase the charges for school meals?

Mr. Rees

We have to be concerned with the overall level of local authority spending. It is for authorities to determine their own priorities within the parameters set by the Government.

Mr. Greenway

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the school meal for many children is their only substantial meal of the day and that they should be given food that has maximum calorific value? Does he further agree that the absence of VAT relief should facilitate this without making Billy Bunters of them?

Mr. Rees

I hope that the presence or absence of VAT will not make Billy Bunters of them. I note what my hon. Friend says, but I think that he slightly exaggerates the problem.