The VAT forecast is estimated on an aggregate basis, as registered traders are not required to record in their VAT return the type of goods or services on which VAT has been collected.
I agree with the Prime Minister that VAT is a regressive tax that hits the poorest hardest. Today’s figures show that the rise has also pushed up inflation, hitting people in their pockets and at the pumps. Will the Treasury team look again at the VAT rise on fuel—which is hurting motorists, hauliers, businesses and families across the country—and reverse it?
I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s concern for motorists. However, I note that when the VAT rise passed through Parliament on 13 July 2010, he did not vote against it. I assure him that the Government are looking at what we can do to support motorists, hauliers and businesses with the cost of fuel, but I have to say that his party’s proposal on VAT is illegal, unworkable and unfunded.
Does the Minister agree with the Transport Secretary—who, on the “Daily Politics” show on 2 March, dismissed the rise in VAT as a spurious argument—or does she agree with my constituents that by adding £1.35 to the cost of filling up a 50-litre tank with fuel, the VAT rise is the wrong tax at the wrong time?
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should talk to his former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, or the right hon. Member for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling), the former Chancellor, who both said that our decision to raise VAT was necessary to tackle the huge deficit that was left by his party. Again, if he is so concerned about the VAT rise, how come he did not vote against it last July?
Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Government inherited plans for six increases in fuel duty from their predecessor, four of which have yet to come into effect? Of all the groups of people who are quite reasonably concerned about the increasing cost of fuel, surely the least qualified is the Labour party.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In fact, the previous Government introduced 12 duty rises during their time in office. As he pointed out, they also legislated for a further six rises, bringing in the fuel duty escalator, and these would have been on top of inflation rises. It was absolutely amazing to see the Labour party table a motion last week bemoaning the amount of tax that motorists are paying, when they legislated for all—
I am sure that the Chancellor will respond to the concerns of the motorist tomorrow in a fiscally responsible and environmentally sustainable way, but does the Minister agree that road fuel duty is a blunt instrument for taxing motoring, and that what we need in the long run is a more flexible, market-oriented mechanism for taxing road use?
Obviously, my hon. Friend has his ideas about how he would like to see motorists being taxed in relation to the environment. He will be aware that the way in which vehicle excise duty is structured encourages motorists to purchase and use cars with lower emissions.
On the day that diesel prices have hit a new high and inflation has jumped higher still, making the squeeze on living standards even worse, why do not the Government admit that they got it wrong on VAT and give struggling working people some much-needed support by reversing the Tory VAT rise on petrol, which would take 3p off the price of a litre? Just do it!
The hon. Lady says, “Just do it!”, but she should know that that is simply not legally possible. She fully understands that. The reason that the Opposition are talking about that is that the fuel duty rises that are coming through were legislated for by Labour, so they are desperately looking for something to say about an issue that they themselves created. She knows that her policy on the VAT rise is illegal, totally unworkable and completely unfunded. Labour wants to take seven years to support motorists; we want to see what we can do to support them now.
When the Labour Government came to power in 1997, fuel duty was 36.86p per litre. By the time they left office, it had risen to 57.19p per litre. As I am sure my hon. Friend is aware, one of the architects of those tax rises was then the chief economic adviser to the Treasury; he is now the shadow Chancellor.