Parliament returned after the Easter recess this week to debate the Finance Bill following last month’s Budget.
There can be no doubt this has been a controversial Budget with the “pasty” tax and changes to tax relief for charitable giving being particularly unpopular measures. Last week, I was lobbied by businesses in the constituency on these matters.
I am very sympathetic to the practicalities of how one can easily judge if one of Reeves’ excellent sausage rolls has fallen below the “ambient temperature” whereby the levying of VAT would not be allowed.
However, it also seems wrong that one day I could choose fish and chips for my lunch and pay VAT on it as a takeaway meal but the next day choose a hot pasty from the shop next door and not pay VAT.
The government intended to remove an anomaly but tax has to be levied fairly and I think, on reflection, some of these measures cannot be easily implemented. I hope clarifications are forthcoming.
For me it is wrong that the very wealthy avoid paying reasonable levels of tax. Many constituents have written about the need for the richest to pay their fair share and I agree with them. For some, giving more than twice Salisbury’s average wage to charity each year is barely comprehensible.
But if that sum was placed in a charity which did not involve any charitable activities then that is not right. As ever, headline writers have had their fun with these issues. For me, the challenge remains for the government to reduce the deficit and put in place measures to encourage the growth of a competitive economy.
I visited Abbey Wood with the Defence Select Committee on Thursday to review the procurement processes in the MoD. Friday will be spent visiting a local school, individual constituents in their homes and holding a surgery. It will also be a pleasure to catch up with my predecessor Robert Key who I occasionally call upon for some wisdom in dealing with long-term matters facing the constituency. Robert is always thoughtful and generous with his advice, for which I am extremely grateful.