§ 2.58 p.m.
§ Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:
§ Whether they will exempt crash helmets and other safety equipment designed for pedal cyclists from VAT.
§ Lord Rea
My Lords, I understood that that was the Answer. I am sorry about that; I had hoped for something rather better. Is the noble Earl aware of an article which was published recently in the British Medical Journal, titled "Cyclists Need Helmets", which pointed out that cycling is next only to motor cycling as the most dangerous form of travel? Motor cyclists' helmets have such an exemption from VAT. Is the noble Earl aware that, despite the danger, cycling is becoming more popular because—apart from the danger of accident and sudden death —it is a healthy convenient and clean form of urban transport? What are the Government doing to encourage cycling and make the world safer for cyclists?
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, I gave that answer because it would be contrary to European Community law to extend our current VAT zero-rating provisions. The relief for motor cyclists' helmets was introduced in the 1974 Budget and, whereas the sixth VAT directive allows member states to retain zero rates which were in force on 31st December 1975, we cannot widen the scope of existing provisions nor introduce new ones.