§ The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Peter Lilley)
My right hon. Friend has received one letter since the reply I gave to my hon. Friend on 6 April this year.
§ Mr. Amess
Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the national associations of hospital broadcasting organisations on their magnificent work throughout Britain in broadcasting to people who are unwell? Will my hon. Friend consider giving them further help by zero-rating VAT on hospital radio broadcasting equipment, treating it in the same way as talking books for the blind?
§ Mr. Lilley
I am sure that the House will want to join me in paying tribute to the marvellous work done by hospital broadcasting in many of our constituencies, not least my own, and in paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess) for his consistent support for hospital broadcasting. As he knows, under EC law we are constrained in our ability to introduce new zero rates. We got away with extending the zero rates on printed matter to newspapers for the blind because of the analogy between the two, but that would not work in the case of hospital broadcasting equipment, which is not specialised and is not provided for hospitals alone. I hope that the hospital broadcasting movement will benefit from the many other moves that we have made to encourage increased support for charities.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
I welcome the Minister's response in paying tribute, but bearing in mind that in the scriptures tributes are the same as taxes, will he keep pressing to give them the benefit of that tribute?
§ Mr. Lilley
We shall continue our efforts to encourage charities in every way that we can, and we believe that the primary way in which to do that through the fiscal system is to encourage people to give more and to increase support. In that we have been successful, and charitable giving has more than doubled in real terms.
§ Mrs. Peacock
I appreciate what my hon. Friend says about the work of hospital broadcasting, but will he recognise the difficulties of many of those stations, particularly when they move to magnificent new hospital premises and have to re-equip completely, as my hospital radio station has had to do? What words of encouragement can he give to enable them to face the massive VAT bills that they will undoubtedly have to pay?
§ Mr. Lilley
As I have said, there is no prospect of our altering the VAT treatment of hospital radio equipment, but I hope that the great support that the movement has in the House will be reflected in the support that everybody gives such organisations in our constituencies so as to ensure that they are properly funded to carry on the great work that they do for patients.