Pasty tax U-turn 'shambles'

May 31, 2012, 2:51 PM GMT+0

49% think Government pasty tax U-turn a ‘shambles’; but 16% say Government 'listens to people'

Half of Britons agree that the Government’s handling of the 'pasty' and 'caravan' taxes has been a 'shambles', along with around two fifths who say the Government is 'incompetent' and 'out of touch', our poll shows.

Recently, the Government has changed controversial plans to impose VAT on hot pasties, caravans at fixed sites, and to hold some court hearings in private – which some, including Labour ministers, are labelling as 'U-turns'.

We gave respondents a list of descriptions, and asked them which, if at all, they would ascribe to the Government over the recently-changed plans.

  • Almost half (49%) have agreed with Labour's shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Rachel Reeves, who described the policy reversal as a 'shambles' – the most popular of the list
  • Just over two fifths (44%) thought that the Government seemed 'incompetent', while just under two fifths say that it is 'out of touch' (39%)
  • Others are less harsh on the Government, with around one sixth (16%) saying the changes over the controversial proposals prove that the Government 'listens to people'
  • One in ten say the Government's actions are 'sensible' and another 10% say they prove that it is 'flexible'
  • 3% said that they would use none of these words and phrases to describe the Government’s handling of these matters

The controversial 'pasty tax', which intended to extend VAT to all takeaway food that was served hot, including items that had previously been exempt, such as sausage rolls, pasties and rotisseries chickens, has been amended to exempt goods from VAT, so long as oven-baked items are allowed to cool naturally on shelves and no attempt is made to keep them hot. Any products sold hot, or heated up, will still incur VAT.

When it comes to the 'caravan tax', it had initially been set at 20% for any sale of static caravans – but has now been reduced to 5% after the Government bowed to public pressure over the plans, it is alleged.

'Ill-thought through' or 'very good news'?

Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has told the BBC that considering how just a few weeks ago, ministers were defending the 'pasty' and 'caravan' taxes, these partial U-turns on policy "show just how ill-thought through the Budget was and how out of touch David Cameron and George Osborne are."

Ms Reeves also accused ministers of attempting to avoid a Commons defeat on Labour's upcoming motion, as their support dropped over Parliament's last vote on the caravan tax.

However, some Conservative backbenchers feel that this successful turnaround will and should be met with a more positive outlook. Tory MP George Eustice ‒ who led a campaign to alter or abolish the pasty tax ‒ told the Daily Mail that the plans' reversals should be considered as 'very good news'.

“This shows we have got a Government that’s doing genuine consultations and listening to public concerns,” he said.

See the survey details and full results here