Geoffrey Cox backs calls for cut in VAT to help Devon tourist industry

18th March 2015
Geoffrey Cox backs calls for a reduction in the VAT rate for visitor attractions and accommodation in the tourist industry, to bring our country into line with competitor destinations in the European Union.

Mr Geoffrey Cox (Torridge and West Devon) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries, for what I believe is the first time.
Torridge and West Devon, which I have the privilege to represent, is a tapestry of small tourist businesses. In common with many hon. Members who are in the Chamber today, I represent a coastal area as well as a large rural area. Across the length and breadth of the south-west, particularly in my constituency—my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Sir Nick Harvey) is here, and he will know what I mean—there is an enormous yearning for something that will boost the tourism industry. Along with agriculture, tourism is the backbone and staple of Devon, Cornwall and the south-west. We are waiting for something that will bring the benefits of the recovery to the south-west. Throughout the south-west, there is a growing consensus—not only from the tourism industry, but from other regional figures who have examined the economy—that a cut in VAT on the tourist industry would provide such a boost.
We have debated the matter on two or three occasions. In 2011, my hon. Friend the Minister said that it was too early to cut the rate of VAT, that we had not taken into account the impact on the economy and that we should not jeopardise our efforts to bear down on the deficit. We all understood in 2011 that it was important not to shake international confidence, and to keep interest rates low. We returned to the subject in 2013, when he told us that the problem was that the Treasury’s analysis produced figures that were different from those of the Cut Tourism VAT campaign. He said that according to the Treasury’s analysis, there was no equivalence between the potential gains from the cut and the loss of tax revenue in the first few years. He said so again last year. Why, then, does independent, third-party research from some very serious figures, such as Professor Blake and Deloitte, conclude that although there would be a revenue fall in the first two or three years, it would be more than made good by the economic activity generated in the sector, which is critical all over the country?
I submit that we must ensure that we do not create an uneven recovery that fails to reach all parts of the country. In the south-west, although we are enormously grateful for the effects of the Government’s stewardship and their long-term economic plan, which are reaching us, pockets of our economy have not yet fully come back to health. This measure is a golden wand that would conjure into life confidence, buoyancy and a willingness to invest. I urge the Minister to commend it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Torridge and West Devon is one of the lowest-waged areas in the country. It shares all the traditional disadvantages of coastal areas, and tourism is its most important staple. I urge the Minister to listen to the campaign and to the voices of my hon. Friends and Members from all parties who say that one of the most important things that can be done to reach those hard-to-reach areas—across the economy, including in inner cities—is to provide that boost.
The Irish experience is positive. Our tourism industry is at a competitive disadvantage, compared with many of our neighbours. This important measure would give enormous assistance to hundreds of thousands of people, and provide important jobs in disadvantaged areas and to young people, as the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) said. I urgently commend it to the Minister.

Surgery Dates

Geoffrey holds regular surgeries. To book an appointment please click here or call 01822 612925.
Saturday 14th July
Holsworthy, Tavistock
Saturday 28th July
Bideford, Torrington