Rt Hon Lord Lilley


    That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session relating to finance, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of expenditure incurred by the Treasury in connection with the expenses of, or payments to members of, the Office of Tax Simplification.

    Mr Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You, above all, will be aware that the power of this House historically derives from its right to levy taxation, a right in respect of value added tax that it handed over to others 40 years ago. Can you confirm that although the Government have not contested two amendments altering rates of VAT, those changes will be nugatory, despite having the unanimous support of this House, unless all 28 member states agree, as the Government hope they will, to accord to this House the rare privilege of being able to determine two rates of VAT on important, but tiny, items? Can you therefore advise whether the House should be enormously grateful for the possibility that we will regain this small power to affect some taxation? Or should we make it a rule of the House that should we ever want to exercise powers of taxation in future, we announce a referendum before each Finance Bill?

    Mr Speaker: I am extremely grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I know, or at least I feel confident, that he will not take it amiss if I suggest, on the basis both of the content of his point of order and of the manner of its delivery, that he was more interested in what he had to say to me than in anything that I might have to say to him. What I would say to the right hon. Gentleman, who is very deeply versed in these matters, is that I can comment on the matter of fact, which is that the House has agreed to the two amendments, a point not in dispute between or us or a matter of any doubt in the Chamber, but I do not feel able to comment upon effect—what it will or will not be. However, I have a sense that his point of order was something of a warm-up, and I have a feeling that to this matter he, and doubtless others, will soon, possibly at greater length, return—[Interruption.] Some mischievous soul says, “Hope not.” I think the hope is in vain.