HC Deb 22 July 1999 vol 335 cc1326-8
13. Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

What representations he has received recently on the level of VAT on church building repairs and renovations. [91106]

The Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo)

Treasury Ministers have received a number of letters asking for a zero rate or reduced rate of VAT for repairs to church buildings.

Mr. Pike

Does my hon. Friend accept that, in many parts of the country, churches are an important part of our heritage, and that many of the older buildings cost considerable sums to maintain and operate? Is there not a very strong case for at least reducing VAT on such repairs—accepting that they cannot be zero-rated—to 5 per cent?

Dawn Primarolo

My hon. Friend will know that the construction of new churches, church halls and village halls is free of VAT, and that, each year, £20 million is granted for the maintenance and repair of churches. Within current VAT legislation, the Government do not have the ability to reduce the rate.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

Has the Minister looked at the problems in many inner-city areas where people are trying to renovate buildings rather than knocking them down and starting again or using green-field sites? A moment ago the Financial Secretary to the Treasury referred to joined-up government. Is there not a suggestion that, unless the issue is tackled, there constantly will be an incentive for people to knock down and start again or to go to a green-field site?

Dawn Primarolo

Yes, the Government are aware of that, and Lord Rogers has looked at such subjects in the urban task force report. It is a pity that the decline of those areas occurred not just since the last general election but under the last Government, who did absolutely nothing about it.