HL Deb 17 May 1976 vol 370 cc1167-8

2.55 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the maximum value of luncheon vouchers permitted by the Inland Revenue without income tax liability, when this concession was introduced and when the value of the vouchers was last altered to keep pace with inflation.


My Lords, luncheon vouchers issued to employees are not taxed provided their value does not exceed 15p for each working day. This concession has applied since 1948 when the limit was 12½p. The monetary limit was subsequently raised to 15p, and the concession was formalised in 1959, since when there has been no alteration; but the matter is kept under regular review.

Several noble Lords: Hear, hear!


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply, and I sense from the House that it is a reply concerning a somewhat farcical situation. Can the noble Lord say what the concession is now meant to provide; what it costs the Chancellor annually, and what considerations are taken into account when this review is made every year?


My Lords, the concession is not meant to cover the cost of a meal. The concession corresponds with a tax-free element in the canteen services which are available to many employees. It is merely the subsidy element in canteen services; not the total cost of the meal. The present cost to the Exchequer of this tax concession on luncheon vouchers £9 million, and if it were raised to meet the cost measured by the retail price index that would cost £10 million, making £19 million. The main factors under consideration by the Exchequer are these. All tax concessions are eroded by inflation. Their restoration in present day circumstances is very much a matter of priorities, and the Government's priorities were given in the Budget.


My Lords, without trying to urge the Government on any really profligate course, does the Chancellor ever read the Bible nowadays? If he does, will the noble Lord draw to his attention the valuable text which says: Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn", and how much corn can he get for 15p?