HC Deb 23 March 1987 vol 113 cc12-3
19. Mr. Chapman

asked the hon. Member for Wokingham, as representing the Church Commissioners, if he will make a statement on the effect of value added tax on repairs on those buildings for whose upkeep the commissioners have responsibility.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I have been asked to reply.

In 1986 the commissioners paid over £500,000 in respect of VAT arising from the repair of buildings.

Mr. Chapman

As the Church of England is a major owner of listed buildings, as instanced by the fact that nearly half the grade I listed buildings are Church of England churches, and as it is generally accepted that the zero rating of VAT on building repairs to such buildings would provide the greatest boost to conservation, would my right hon. and learned Friend, as a commissioner, be prepared to encourage the other commissioners to lead a campaign in Europe to get the European Community rules changed so that the other major owners of buildings, the Government, bring forward proposals to this House to zero rate for VAT purposes the repairs to listed buildings?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

All hon. Members will have sympathy with my hon. Friend's objective. Versatile though I am, I do not think that I will undertake to encourage the commissioners, but I will undertake to see to it that they take careful note of my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Cormack

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the commissioners and others, particularly the Historic Churches Preservation Trust, have repeatedly lobbied the Chancellor to reduce or eliminate VAT on such buildings? Will he talk to his colleagues in the Government — and how glad we are to see that he is answering this particular question today — and urge them to make this change?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend has said. I certainly undertake to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Gow

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, though many evils flow from Brussels, there is no responsibility on Brussels for the imposition of VAT on repairs to buildings of this kind? Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that it would be open to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to include in this year's Finance Bill a measure giving relief from VAT for repairs on this kind?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I understand that there are difficulties in introducing a new zero rate. That is a matter to which the Select Committee gave its attention in its admirable report. I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to all points of this nature.