HC Deb 09 July 1987 vol 119 cc500-2
4. Mr. Martyn Jones

asked the Chancellor of Exchequer whether he has any plans to increase value added tax base in the United Kingdom.

15. Mr. Parry

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he has any plans to impose value added tax on children's clothes; and if he will make a statement.

18. Mr. Fatchett

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Government have any plans to extend the range of value added tax; and if he will make a statement.

The Paymaster General (Mr. Peter Brooke)

My right hon. Friend has no such plans.

Mr. Jones

Will the Minister explain what the Government intend to do in the light of the probable result of the Cockfield report to the European Commission next week, which will certainly insist on the harmonisation of VAT rates within the European Economic Community? That, of course, will mean VAT on food, clothing, fuel and other goods in this country.

Mr. Brooke

Last night the Commission decided not to take a decision on the proposals put forward by Lord Cockfield's commission. Therefore, as yet, the hon. Gentleman's question remains hypothetical.

Mr. Fatchett

Will the Minister take this opportunity to confirm that the Government will veto any attempt to introduce VAT on children's shoes and clothes?

Mr. Brooke

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made the situation on food and children's clothes entirely clear.

Mr. Heathcote-Amory

Does my hon. Friend agree, and will he confirm, that, whatever the merits or objections to extending the VAT base, it should remain a decision of this Parliament and not be subcontracted to the European Parliament? Moreover, we should not be pressured into it by the European Court.

Mr. Brooke

I have made it clear that my right hon. Friend has no such plans, but it is the need to preserve his freedom to have plans in this area that might cause us to exercise our veto in Brussels.

Mr. Robert Sheldon

Lord Cockfield's proposals also include the harmonisation of excise duties? Can the Minister assure us that the Chancellor will oppose any efforts to harmonise excise duties?

Mr. Brooke

My answer to the right hon. Gentleman is the same as the one that I gave to his hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, South-West (Mr. Jones). Lord Cockfield has not brought forward his proposals. Therefore, that question remains hypothetical.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

Does my hon. Friend share my pleasure at the fact that the hon. Members for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) and for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) on the Opposition Front Bench demonstrate that debility is not necessarily a bar to advancement in the Labour party? In view of the disgraceful scare-mongering that was carried out during the election campaign on the issue of VAT, has my hon. Friend yet received an apology from those hon. Gentleman for the lies that were told—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) knows what I am about to say.

Mr. Hamilton

I refer to the lies that were told by members of the Labour party who were not standing as candidates for membership of this House.

Mr. Brooke

I join my hon. Friend in admiring the two hon. Members on the Opposition Front Bench. As to secret agendas during the election, we were conscious of two pieces of small print that were missing from the Labour party manifesto. To paraphrase Lady Bracknell, "To omit one piece of small print might be regarded as a cock-up; to omit two looks like a conspiracy."

Mr. Gould

The Minister must know that the Prime Minister has merely said that she does not believe that plans to levy VAT on children's clothing and other items of the family budget would get through the House. I agree with her on that point, but what, however, is the Government's attitude? Will the Minister tell us whether he, his colleagues and the Prime Minister will ensure that a veto is applied to any such proposals?

Mr. Brooke

I have the distinction of having been the pairing Whip during the 1979 Parliament who uniquely lost a vote in the House, but it is not the Government's practice to put in front of the House proposals that they would not expect to carry.