"We don't want pasty police poking Plymouth pies", says MP
PLYMOUTH doesn’t need an ‘army’ of inspectors ‘poking our pasties’, a Tory MP has warned.
Sheryll Murray, MP for South East Cornwall, was speaking out during a parliamentary debate on plans to introduce a highly controversial ‘pasty tax’ - enforced by inspectors who would check if takeaway pasties were hot enough to attract a VAT charge.
Mrs Murray said pasty prices could rocket by as much as 60p if slapped with a 20 per cent tax hike.
And unlike supermarkets, small bakeries already struggling with increasing overheads would have no choice but to pass it on to the customer, she said.
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Mrs Murray highlighted the threat to traditional family-run businesses in her constituency from the proposed tax as she urged a rethink by the Chancellor George Osborne.
The Government has come under fire from the bakery industry and MPs from across the political divide over Treasury proposals to levy VAT on baked goods.
Ministers were told during the debate that the plans were unenforceable, undeliverable and created fresh anomalies.
Concerns have been raised the move could place 2,000 jobs at risk and put 300 bakeries under the threat of closure.
Campaigners have put forward alternative proposals which supported the principle that baked goods were zero rated except where they were kept hot for consumption.
This would close the loopholes exploited by the supermarkets and so raises the vast bulk of the revenue that the Treasury was seeking from the measure.
Mrs Murray said: “As the grand-daughter of a Cornish baker no one knows more than me what it’s like to make a pasty. Yes I know the ingredients, and yes I can crimp a pasty.”
Her constituents were “exceptionally concerned” about the VAT levy.
“The pasty is a big part of the famed Cornish heritage and history of which we are all so proud,” she said.
“This tax affects a lot of small businesses like the traditional bakeries in my constituency and the knock-on effects that it will no doubt have ion the already struggling town centres.”
Among those to contact her with concerns was the director of Dashers Pasties in Torpoint, a small business with an annual turnover of around £160,000.
While supermarkets could absorb the extra cost, firms like Dashers would have to pass it onto the customer. A “massive increase” of up to 60p a pasty, Mrs Murray told fellow MPs.
“They feel the only winners will be the supermarkets who have the ability to keep their prices low,” she said.
Mrs Murray added: “Surely the last thing we need is to employ an army of thermometer wielding tax inspectors travelling around our bakeries poking our pasties seeing if they had cooled enough.”
Responding to the debate, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke said the Government was considering suggestions.
But he added: “The current situation is unfair. This is a measure that ensures businesses of all sizes and in all locations receive the same tax treatment for similar products.
“I accept all taxes have an effect on growth and jobs. But VAT as a whole has a less damaging impact than many other taxes.”
The change was aimed at creating a level playing field.
However, he went on; “I have of course been listening to the contributions to this debate.”