HC Deb 11 July 1984 vol 63 cc1054-6

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, notwithstanding the Resolution (Amendment of the law) of 19th March, in relation to a building which is—

  1. (a) a listed building, within the meaning of—
    1. (i) the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, or
    2. (ii) the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972, or
    3. (iii) the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1972, or
  2. (b) a scheduled monument, within the meaning of—
    1. (i) the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, or
    2. (ii) the Historic Monuments Act (Northern Ireland) 1971,
provision may be made for zero-rating the granting, by a person carrying out certain works of reconstruction in relation to the building, of a major interest in, or in any part of, the building or its site; and in this Resolution 'major interest' has the same meaning as in the Value Added Tax Act 1983. — [Mr. Neubert.]

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

It would be helpful if the Minister could explain to the House the precise import of the Ways and Means resolution. I believe that it is part and parcel of an important and valuable Government concession relating to historic buildings. We should make sure that that concession applies in some complicated circumstances that could arise. Without the concession, the weight of the ludicrous imposition of value added tax on building works would have applied to the historic buildings that the Government are trying to preserve.

Later tonight we shall see whether, at this eleventh hour, we can persuade the Government to extend the concession to other related matters, such as buildings in conservation areas, schools, community buildings, and so on. It would be helpful if the Minister could tell us precisely what the Ways and Means resolution does. I hope that it makes the concession, which I welcome, more effective.

The Minister of State, Treasury (Mr. Barney Hayhoe)

The amendment of the law resolution, which was approved on 19 March, does not allow the making of any amendment with respect to value added tax so as to provide (a) for zero-rating or exempting any supply". In other words, the resolution does not allow any amendments designed to introduce any new zero ratings. The Government have proposed a concession for listed buildings, on which I gave a commitment in Committee, and it was referred to by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith).

Item 2 of the group provides for the zero rating of any approved alteration. However, that does not represent a completely new zero rating. It is a limited return to the pre-budget zero rating for alterations and does not fall foul of the amendment of the law resolution. However, I am advised that in strict legal terms item 1 proposes a new relief. The previous relief for the grant of a major interest by a builder or developer substantially reconstucting a building was an administrative—possibly generous—interpretation of the item 1 relief in group 8 for a person constructing a new building. As item 1 of group 8A represents, strictly speaking, a new zero rating for the sale or long lease of a building by a person who has carried out certain works of reconstruction to it, such an amendment to the law cannot be made without the Ways and Means resolution.

Therefore, this procedural resolution is required to give full effect to the commitment that I gave in Committee and is reflected in the amendments before the House.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

I, too, would like to raise a matter in relation to the Ways and Means resolution because I found that I could not table an amendment, which I have discussed privately with Ministers, on exemption from value added tax for mountaineering equipment.

Could we be told why it is necessary for the Government to table the Ways and Means resolution? As the Chair has discretion to select amendments, you, Mr. Speaker, could decide what debates could take place on VAT. Does that not adequately protect the Government in so far as there would not be an abuse of the Order Paper by the tabling of innumerable amendments on VAT? On this occasion—it may be the custom and practice of the House—it seems that we are being confined to debating areas that are acceptable to the Government, when many of us would have sought to table amendments that were far more in tune with the desires and requirements of our constituents. Surely we are here in the House of Commons to protect their interests, not the Government's interests.

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not a matter for me. I can select amendments only in accordance with the money resolution. For the reasons that have been mentioned, it has been necessary to move a further Ways and Means resolution in respect of this matter.

Question put and agreed to.