§ Lady Hermon
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to exempt the cost of restoring historic buildings from VAT; and if he will make a statement. 
§ John Healey
[holding answer 15 September 2003]: Our long-standing formal agreements with out European partners allow us to keep our zero rates as they currently stand, but do not allow us to extend them or to introduce new ones.
The Government are particularly concerned about the position of listed places of worship. That is why we asked the European Commission to bring forward proposals to extend the categories of permitted reduced VAT rates to include their repair, maintenance and improvement. We are continuing to press this case during the current EU review of reduced rates and have, in the meantime, introduced the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme to provide an equivalent reduction in the cost of these repair projects.