HC Deb 22 March 1999 vol 328 cc18-21
37. Mr. John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington)

What representations the Church Commissioners have made to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the exemption from VAT of charges for building repair works and security measures for redundant churches. [76003]

Mr. Stuart Bell (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners)

[Interruption.] I am sorry, Madam Speaker, I lost my place. The commissioners were co-signatories to a submission in November 1997 on behalf of the Church of England's national bodies to the Government's review of the taxation of charities which highlighted as a particular concern the VAT treatment of works to church buildings.

Mr. McDonnell

I am tempted to say: seek, and ye shall find". Through my hon. Friend, may I request the Church Commissioners to reinvigorate their campaign and join other charitable organisations to ensure that the Government's review of the regulation of charitable and Church bodies results in all repairs on community buildings and churches being zero-rated for VAT?

Mr. Bell

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his biblical advice. VAT on repairs to listed churches and cathedrals is estimated to have totalled about £16 million in 1993, of which the Church of England paid about £12 million. The question of VAT on church repairs has been raised ever since the introduction of VAT more than 25 years ago and it has met with a negative response from every Administration. I shall end with a biblical quotation: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Perhaps my hon. Friend's point will be heard.