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Column 238that point. I hope that he will ensure that he uses precise wording and has a clear understanding of the points that his hon. Friends are raising with him before he gives a categorical assurance on the Floor of the House this evening because we take with several pillars of salt the word of any Government Minister about VAT.
Last summer the Chancellor wrote to one of his constituents about VAT on fuel. He made clear the Government's views on extending VAT on to zero- rated goods. It is advisable for all of us as Members of Parliament to answer only the questions that we are asked, as opposed to venturing speculation. The Chancellor wrote:
"I have always thought that we attempt to exempt too many goods and services from VAT in this country. VAT is still imposed on a little over half of all sales, which is much more restrictive than the sale taxes in other countries.".
It is clear that the Chancellor wants to extend VAT and that it will continue to be an issue between now and the next general election, whenever that may be--I hope, sooner rather than later. The Government continue to give undertakings on the Floor of the House and then break them. They attempt to mislead the House on the purposes of tax orders that are before us. They are driven desperately by the desire to increase indirect taxes, mainly through VAT, to advance a spurious and dishonest argument that they are the Government of reducing taxes. This is a tax too far. They are undermining the industries that they claim to support and I urge all hon. Members to vote against the order this evening.
Several hon. Members rose --
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): The hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms Primarolo) sometimes overstates her case, even when she is making a point with which Conservative Members may agree. After all, anyone experiencing difficulty in obtaining a copy of the order could have contacted his or her Member of Parliament, who could easily have supplied it.
Many hon. Members on both sides of the House are concerned about the national tramway museum in Crich, which is in my constituency. I want to concentrate on the issue of consultation on the museum. My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) agrees with many of my views. I feel that my hon. Friend the Minister was less generous with the House than he should have been when he spoke of consultation on the order. It was made on 29 November, and laid before the House on the same day; where was the time for consultation?
I believe that a number of anomalies will remain, given my hon. Friend's logic in the correspondence that we have had on this technical and complicated matter. Those anomalies have been sneaking into parliamentary answers, including written answers given by my hon. Friend the Minister to my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Luff) on 13 December. I do not understand why the Treasury's list of items that will remain zero-rated includes ferries, canal boat rides and other boat trips on public waterways, fishing trips and trips around harbours. If a boat went outside a harbour, would VAT be levied?
Column 239Mystery coach tours are also included. If people start a coach trip without knowing where they are going, that trip will be zero-rated; but a trip to the tramway museum in my constituency, providing a view of the Derbyshire hills, will be liable for VAT. I feel that such measures should be in the Finance Bill: the beauty of that would be the opportunity given to organisations to express concern. As it is, the measures are in an unamendable order.
I hope that, in his closing remarks--if he has time to make them--my hon. Friend the Minister will say that the Finance Bill may give us a chance to discuss any complications that arise from the order. I do not have time to deal with all the problems, because this is a short debate and other hon. Members wish to speak.
Dame Peggy Fenner: I thank my hon. Friend for giving me a few moments in which to emphasise the value of the national tramway museum. Only it and the railway museum are allowed to call themselves "national".
Although my constituency does not contain such a museum, my constituents give up their time voluntarily to work there, raising money to build a beautiful new exhibition hall. They are very worried. Mr. Webster, for instance, came to my advice centre and said that he had known of the proposals for only a couple of weeks, and believes that his projects are in peril. His father was a tram driver, and his whole family go up to work on trams and raise money. Like my hon. Friend the Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin), I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will ensure that no anomalies affect such a wonderful volunteer organisation.
Mr. Tyler: The hon. Gentleman is making a powerful case, but I think that the Minister should be asked to withdraw the order and table a Government amendment to the Finance Bill in Committee, providing an opportunity for the discussion and consultation that hon. Members on both sides of the House want.
Mr. McLoughlin: I do not think that that is likely to happen. I should be more than happy to receive an assurance from my hon. Friend the Minister that, if he considers the matter in more detail over the next few months and feels that a change in the Finance Bill is necessary, he will take such action.
The national tramway museum is a small, non-profit-making organisation. It has already printed its literature for next year. I do not want those who run it to have to put up a sign at the entrance saying, "These used to be the entrance prices until the Budget." We do not want an extra 17.5 per cent. added to the museum's charges--that would be rather unfortunate. If it happens to this museum, it will also happen to a number of others. That would not be of much benefit to the Government.
Column 240I had the privilege of serving as a Minister for some time. It is most unusual to have to take through the House a piece of legislation that directly impinges on one's own constituency--but that was what happened to me when I took the Transport and Works Bill through the House. The main aim of the Bill was to stop a considerable amount of private legislation being taken on the Floor of the House. I know that many hon. Members were grateful for that.
The Bill, however, also imposed on the national tramway museum the same legal requirements as those governing conventional tramways and railways. The orders meant that such museums were obliged to observe all the onerous legal requirements, including safety requirements, that were applicable to conventional tramways and railways. Now these places are to be treated more harshly under the taxation system than other tramways. That is unfair and inconsistent, and I hope that the Minister will tonight be able to offer us some reassurance on the Government's intentions.
Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East): I shall confine my remarks to the second order. I endorse entirely what the hon. Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin) has just said; the fact that the national tramway museum is in his constituency serves only to add force to his comments.
Like the hon. Member for Medway (Dame P. Fenner), I, too, have had a letter from a constituent who has spent a lifetime in public transport in the west midlands. He retired recently and he spends a lot of his free time voluntarily helping out at the national tramway museum. Ken Sutton--he will not mind my naming him--writes to tell me that the effect of the order will be to add £35,000 a year to the running costs of the museum. Is that really what Ministers intended when they laid the order? If the order is approved tonight, heritage groups such as those who run the museum, largely voluntarily, will be treated far worse in taxation terms than profit-making tramway organisations in other parts of the country. That is manifestly unfair.
Earlier, the Minister twice said that he had been accused of introducing a bureaucratic imposition but that that description was untrue. Judging by the interventions in his speech, however, and by the speeches made since, that is what the House thinks of this order. The hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) asked the Minister--I suspect not with any great hope of success--to take the order away and to reintroduce it, if that is what the Government want, in prime time and on the Floor of the House so that we may adequately debate it and, just as importantly, so that proper consultations with those responsible for operating these places can be held.
Whether the Minister accepts it or not, this VAT order does entail bureaucratic impositions. Thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall), I have been able to look at the press release published by the Department, where I find phrases such as "fun" or "historic" rides, "transport within theme parks", other places of "entertainment or historic interest", and so on. By no stretch of the imagination can the cost of moving someone from an airport car park to the terminal fall into any of those categories. I am left wondering why that addition was made. What impact will it have on legitimate business costs incurred at airports? To say the least, it is anomalous--I hope that the Minister
Column 241will accept that description--that airport car parking transfer charges are now to be subjected to VAT at 17.5 per cent.
Earlier, the hon. Member for Hampshire, North-West (Sir D. Mitchell)--a former Transport Minister--intervened to ask about a couple of railway lines in his constituency. It is obvious that he was satisfied with the Minister's response, because he is no longer in his place.
I, too, want to ask some questions about the imposition of VAT on preserved railway lines. I appreciate that the Minister replied fairly straightforwardly to his hon. Friend. The Watercress line and the Keighley and Worth Valley light railway have been mentioned, and it seems that charges will not be imposed on either line. Does that apply throughout the preserved steam railway sector? Does it apply to all journeys? I very much doubt whether it does. I think that the hon. Member for Hampshire, North- West accepted the Minister's assurance rather too quickly.
In the west midlands we have the Severn Valley railway. In the run-up to Christmas, the railway operates what it calls Santa specials. They start and finish at the same place. For much of the year, the Severn Valley railway operates dinner specials. Again, they start and finish at the same place. Passengers board the train at Kidderminster and they are taken to Bridgenorth. The locomotive runs around the train, as it were, and the train returns to Kidderminster. Would such a journey be subject to the imposition of VAT at 17.5 per cent? Would it come within the terms of the order? The Santa specials would fall within the terms of the order.
Sir Keith Speed (Ashford): The Kent and East Sussex railway in my constituency runs similar Santa specials. In my youth, I was once a Santa Claus giving out presents to children. The trains go up and down the line, starting and finishing at the same place. The Wealden Pullman is an excellent example of what preserved railways are doing. Again, the train travels up and down the line and has no destination. A very agreeable meal is served on the train at a very agreeable price. The line does not make a profit, but it is an enormous tourist attraction. If the order is implemented, the railway will have to issue many different types of tickets for its many different activities. Surely that is nonsensical.
Mr. Snape: The hon. Gentleman illustrates the fact that the Treasury interferes in the preserved railway sector at its peril. I hope that the Minister will take up these fundamental questions. Will VAT be levied on such journeys?
I have another example of journeys that may be covered by the order unless he tells us, as I hope he will, that they will not. In the Birmingham area there is the Tyseley steam museum. The Flying Scotsman was there until comparatively recently. Are the journeys that are undertaken by locomotives in the museum to be subjected to VAT at 17.5 per cent. under the terms of the order? If they are, perhaps the Minister will explain why there has been no consultation with the organisations that I have mentioned.
The order will not do. The Treasury should not treat the House in this way. We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Ms Primarolo), who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench, about specific pledges that were given on the extension of VAT to the journeys that have been mentioned. The Government should, for
Column 242once, honour their pledges. They should take away the order and give us a proper opportunity to debate these matters in prime time. Equally importantly, they should give those responsible for levying charges and for advertising railway entertainments throughout the United Kingdom the opportunity to be consulted. Consultation has been conspicuous by its absence so far.
Sir Peter Fry (Wellingborough): It is not often that the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) and I agree--we have often debated with each other on transport matters--but I endorse his closing words: it is still the job of Members of Parliament to examine legislation that is presented to us, to see whether it deserves to be passed. I contend that it is clear tonight that many hon. Members, on both sides of the House, feel that we should not just happily pass the order in its present form, without further consideration.
It seems odd to me that an order that is supposed to implement the will of Parliament and clear up anomalies instead creates an enormous number of extra anomalies. We have not even had a definition of public transport. Before we can possibly pass the order, we should at least know what is meant by "public transport".
I declare an interest as adviser to the coach industry action group, although it has not approached me on this point. I have received a letter from the confederation of passenger transport. It is very concerned and tells me that coach operators provide exclusive tours, which, for VAT purposes, fall under the tour operators' margin scheme. It wants to know-- it wrote to Customs and Excise on 14 December--whether its exemption will continue. I think that it is fully entitled to an answer from my hon. Friend the Minister tonight, or before the legislation comes into effect.
This is one of the most discriminatory pieces of legislation that I have ever seen. Why, for example, are we picking out the aviation industry for a further clobbering? The industry--entirely within the private sector--has had a series of measures imposed on it by the Government and there is clear discrimination against it, as outlined in article 3 of the order. I would have understood had the Government said that, henceforth, any form of transport--I shall use the words in the order--that was not
"primarily for the purpose of transporting passengers from one place to another"
would cease to be exempt from VAT, but I would not necessarily have agreed with it, because, as hon Members have said, there are many forms of transport that should not have VAT applied to them. Why do the Government use that phraseology only in respect of article 3, which would allow a range of other transport activities to remain exempt from VAT? Why, for example, should a trip by sea be exempt when a trip on an aeroplane will not? Certain activities will become much more expensive. Because of the lack of consultation and the way in which the order has been introduced, it is no wonder that many responsible bodies are very concerned.
One of those bodies is British Airways. It feels strongly that it has been picked out as part of the aviation industry for extra taxation. One of the points that it has put to me--I sincerely hope that my hon. Friend the Minister
Column 243will respond to it when he winds up the debate--is that the order contravenes, or could, the sixth VAT directive, 77/388 EEC, which decrees that the imposition of VAT must not discriminate. I defy anybody to read the order and not conclude that there is strong discrimination, particularly against the aviation industry. I have been in the House for more than 25 years, and a number of squalid measures have been introduced, from the Treasury and from Governments--both Labour and Conservative. There are not many occasions on which there has been a spontaneous reaction on both sides of the House to any particular measure. My hon. Friend and the Government should come clean. If they really want to remove the exemption in article 3, they should at least have the courage of consistency and apply it right across the board to transport. They have not done that, I suspect for the reason that we have heard tonight--that many hon. Members will get up and rightly point out the damage that will be done by the imposition of VAT on the national tramway museum and local railway lines.
If the Government expect the House to pass the measure, they should accept the suggestion that it should be withdrawn and be part of the Finance Bill and the debates that we shall have in future weeks. If my hon. Friend expects the House happily to let what I regard as a somewhat mean little measure go through tonight, he will do so without my support.
Mr. David Marshall (Glasgow, Shettleston): The transport order is one of the daftest measures introduced by the Government in my time in the House, and that is saying something. It was made even worse when the Minister said that it is not the result of a European directive, so he is even deprived of being able to blame it on someone else. It is just another case of the Government building up a treasure chest to bribe the electorate in a pre-election Budget. That is the only possible explanation for their introducing this punitive measure.
I declare an interest as a sponsored member of the Transport and General Workers Union.
I fully agree with the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Sir P. Fry) that we have not yet had a definition of public transport, especially in its usual sense, particularly coach travel. I take it that coach travel as part of a holiday package is not public transport in its usual sense and therefore would be subject to VAT. That is worrying, particularly for Scotland whose largest industry is tourism and as such is important to it. Many thousands of tourists come by coach from England and Europe and many tourists who fly into Scotland travel by coach rather than drive themselves around. Those tourists spend between one day and three weeks in Scotland. Such holidays do not come cheap. Most cost many hundreds of pounds and some cost thousands of pounds in total. The imposition of 17.5 per cent. VAT on such holidays will substantially reduce the number of tourists coming to Scotland, as well as England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Businesses, particularly small businesses in remote and rural areas will suffer a great loss of revenue.
Column 244tourist industry, particularly coach tours and especially those from England, has been down considerably in the past 12 months, which is worrying.
It is a two-way trade because coach tours go from Scotland south of the border. Some hotels survive only because they are on the coaching trail and some tourist attractions are viable only because of coach tours. Mystery tours and coach excursions have been referred to and they are popular, particularly with families and the elderly, especially those on low incomes and people who live in cities, such as Edinburgh and Glasgow, and other industrial centres of Great Britain. They want to get out of the city into the country and coaches provide a relatively cheap way of doing so.
Many tours will now disappear as a result of the imposition of VAT and all that it will achieve will be to deprive people of some pleasure and to deprive many people of their livelihood. It will be harder for small businesses, coach operators and drivers to remain in employment.
Many small towns and villages depend almost entirely on coach tours for their livelihood. Car traffic and passing trade is all very well but it is the coach tours that make businesses such as hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and takeaway food centres profitable. Some examples in the Scottish scene spring readily to mind. The hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) will be familiar with them. Places such as Callander, Aberfoyle and Loch Katrine in the Trossachs are inundated with coach tours in summer and winter, especially at weekends. Woollen mills that sell the products of many rural areas also depend on coach tours and visitors to make a living: one thinks of Alva Glen and Culzean castle.
Coach tours to Blackpool illuminations are popular. There are hundreds of such tours, all of which will become uneconomic or will be put at risk as a result of the imposition of VAT. The National Trust for Scotland, too, has many hundreds of properties throughout Scotland--social attractions, historical attractions and garden attractions--and VAT will adversely affect all of them.
The whisky trail and visitor centres that attract many thousands of people from all over the world will be at risk too, because many of the visitors come by coach. It is worth noting that the whisky visitor centres employ more people than does the production of the whisky. That shows how important such attractions are to people and how important coach travel is. The measure is ill thought out and will turn out to be counter-productive. It discriminates especially against remote areas and against Scotland.
It is worrying, too, that VAT at 17.5 per cent. may be only the beginning. Can the Minister assure us that at some future date, if VAT is 22 per cent. or 25 per cent., the tax will not be increased? Of course he cannot. Things will be even worse when that day comes, as it surely will under the present Government.
Finally, can the Minister tell the House whether VAT will be levied on organised air trips to Lapland to see Santa Claus? Even Ebenezer Scrooge did not go that far. The order is not fair, just or logical, and the House should reject it.
Column 2459.26 pm
Mr. Colin Shepherd (Hereford): I perceive that the House is much exercised about excursions, but I shall speak about the Value Added Tax (Buildings and Land) Order 1994, and press as quickly as I can the point made by the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms Primarolo) when she asked for extra-statutory concessions.
Some organisations have been literally caught on the hop by the introduction of the measure. I understand that the Paymaster General has introduced it so speedily to stop what may be called end-play situations, but it is right that attention should be paid to the predicament of legitimate organisations caught on the hop. For example, I am a council member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, appointed by the Privy Council, and accordingly I am involved with the college's acquisition of new premises in exchange for its old premises. It has acquired, through a property sub-company, a property to be purchased, but has not yet signed a lease with that company, so it is literally caught between stepping stones.
The arrangement that the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons was entering into was absolutely legitimate when it embarked upon that course. It was using the law as it existed, and was setting out not to avoid VAT but to spread it. That formed part of its calculations in making the transaction.
It seems to me that the order is targeted at lease and leaseback arrangements rather than at ordinary property leasing
arrangements--certainly, the Customs and Excise briefing document suggests that it is. Yet it does not seem to have been possible to draft the order tightly enough to draw in only lease and leaseback, so property arrangements have been drawn into the net as well. That has penalised many companies that have entered into legitimate arrangements and then been caught out.
The royal college is now caught in the worst of all worlds. It has acquired the property, without the leasing arrangements, as a straight purchase. Had it done so outright as a straight purchase it could have recovered one third of the VAT , but now no VAT can be recovered. As a consequence of the order, the college will have to pay much more VAT to Customs and Excise than it would otherwise have done. I cannot believe that it is the intention to penalise persons caught on the hop in that way.
For those who are so caught, I suggest that the fair way forward is for them to be placed on a footing that leaves Customs and Excise receiving what it would have done had that part of the VAT remained recoverable. The RCVS would have been able to recover a third of its VAT. Under the order, Customs and Excise will receive 50 per cent. more than it would have done for a straight purchase. If the Treasury should have its due, it should not be the beneficiary of a 50 per cent. windfall.
As I understand it, the Minister has the power to make extra-statutory concessions. The number of companies or organisations caught in that way cannot be large, so I would like from my hon. Friend an assurance that he will entertain requests for an extra-statutory concession so that the injustice can be corrected and the genuine nature of transactions such as the one that RCVS has entered into can be reflected. Members of the RCVS are honourable people doing honourable things. The arrangement is not a
Column 246chipping arrangement or a short cut; it was done in all good faith. That ought to be reflected in the actions of the Treasury tonight. 9.30 pm
Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight): I do not want to raise the question of theme parks and so on, but I understand from correspondence with my hon. Friend the Minister that the Isle of Wight steam railway will not be covered by the order because it charges for its tickets, not for admission. However, it is to the Isle of Wight that I wish to speak because we rely on our ferries to come and go from the island.
I am worried about the information given out by Customs and Excise about the order. Paragraph 3(b) says:
"in any motor vehicle between a car park"--
or its vicinity--
"and an airport passenger terminal".
That seems to me to be a hop, skip and a jump to transport from a car park to a ferry terminal, and that could include Ryde pier. That worries me enormously.
Paragraph 9 of the information says that the changes are unlikely to affect the present treatment of boat trips or ro-trains. It does not say that they will not. It does not say that they do not. It says that they are unlikely to affect it. That sort of language terrifies me when it comes from the Treasury. Paragraph 12 refers to pleasure flights including hot air balloon rides. I was puzzled as to why the Government thought that they could raise so much money from hot air balloons. I realised when I listened to the speeches of the Liberal Democrats that there was a whole new means of travel here and tremendous income was to be gained from hot air balloons. As I understand it, the French and British Governments reached agreement on the VAT treatment of the channel link. If that train happened to go into Disneyland, it would become VATable under the order. That is extraordinary. Paragraph 12 refers to experience of flying. What about experience of boating? As I speak, the British Marine Industries Federation is putting on the international boat show. It has experience of boating. One can hear the tills clicking away over at the Treasury as they say, "Aha, another means of income." That is very worrying.
The nub of the matter is that we all know in the House that the moment we depart from a zero rate on VAT on anything within the EC structure, we are stuck with it. We can never go back to less than 5 per cent. My hon. Friend is either being a little disingenuous, has been misled by his officials or is playing with fire--or he is doing all three. By moving the Value Added Tax (Transport) Order 1994 he is inviting the EC to say that the United Kingdom has departed from VAT at a zero rate on public transport. It will rule that we must impose VAT at the minimum rate of 5 per cent. on all public transport. That is what really worries me. I believe that the price of freedom from taxation on the Isle of Wight ferries is eternal vigilance over the Treasury.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I will endeavour to answer the many questions raised during the debate. I think that I can give significant reassurance, especially to my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field). I promise him that there is no intention of applying value added tax at the standard rate to the ferry services on which his
Column 247constituency relies. The essential feature of the Value Added Tax (Transport) Order 1994 is to return the situation to what Parliament intended when it granted zero-rating to public transport. We have drifted away from that and some forms of transport--trips in hot air balloons to name but one--have come under the umbrella of public transport and have claimed and been given zero-rated status when that was clearly not intended.
I find it a little strange that the Opposition should complain about features of the two orders which are designed to end loopholes and anomalies, when their entire shadow Budget was founded on the pretence that they could fund their expenditure ambitions through windfall taxes and ending loopholes.
When the Government introduce measures to end loopholes and anomalies, the Opposition complain about that in detail.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I will come to the hon. Lady's point in a minute, if I may just finish my argument. The Opposition complain about confusion in the orders, which I can well understand on their part, because they are in a good deal of confusion over their VAT ambitions. I find it strange that some of them at least wish to put VAT on education, yet they resist measures that return the zero-rating privilege for the public transport sector to what Parliament originally intended.
Ms Primarolo: The Minister will surely have noticed during tonight's debate that there is considerable disquiet on both sides of the House about the proposals in the Value Added Tax (Transport) Order 1994. Given the Chancellor's promise to the House that zero-rated VAT would be removed only by primary legislation, will he tell us why he cannot withdraw the transport order tonight and bring it back as an amendment to the Finance Bill, when it can be considered thoroughly, proper consultation can be undertaken and every hon. Member can satisfy himself of the exact intention?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I already pointed out in an intervention on the hon. Lady that all Governments, including a Labour Government, have used secondary legislation to make adjustments and alterations at the margin to the coverage and extent of value added tax. In 1976 and 1977, the Labour Government introduced exactly analogous measures--including one which I mentioned as an example--to remove from zero-rating certain items of food and confectionery. We are merely using the same methods of secondary legislation as were employed by the hon. Lady's party when it was last in office.
Column 248Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: I am sorry, but I owe it to my hon. Friends and to other hon. Members who raised matters in the debate to try to respond.
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): Will my hon. Friend give way, as I was not able to raise this matter during the debate? I am grateful for his courtesy. Can he tell me whether the Ruislip lido railway, which runs within a recreational area, will be subject to standard rate VAT? One can either take a round trip and end up where one began, in which case I presume that one would be subjected to that rate, or one can go to the other end of the line and get off, in which case one would not. The latter journey would be zero-rated because it would be assumed to be transport, even though it is a distance of only three quarters of a mile down the line. Can my hon. Friend tell me, beyond peradventure, what the position will be?
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: My hon. Friend has not given me sufficient details to make a snap judgment about whether a facility in his constituency falls within the order. If he writes me a letter giving further details, I shall respond in due course.
In her opening remarks, the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms Primarolo) suggested that the buildings order would be retrospective. I have already assured her that it will not be. The order took effect from 30 November 1994, so leases entered into before that date are not affected. She also asked whether the provisions could be circumvented by use of a third party. On the information that she gave in her opening remarks, I would say that that would not constitute tax avoidance and would not be caught by the order. If she wants further details, she should write to me.
I understand the close interest which my hon. Friend the Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin) has taken in the national tramway museum. Admission charges to museums without transport are already liable to the standard rate. It was never intended to provide a tax advantage to places that happen to include, or take the form of, a ride. We are merely returning the museum to equal treatment with all other museums and places of interest. Nor will it mean different treatment for places of interest and places of entertainment, which would give rise to difficult borderline cases if we tried to distinguish between them.
Let us imagine, for example, a theme or safari park that sets up a mock Jurassic park attraction. Some would say that it is a matter of entertainment, while others would say that it is a matter of interest or education. In dealing with legislation, it must therefore be right to provide rules that go across the board and deal with all places of entertainment, museums and theme or safari parks.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Shepherd) mentioned the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. He has written to me about that difficult case. I assure him that organisations or businesses caught innocently by the order may be granted an extra-statutory concession. However, I understand that that organisation tried to enter into an arrangement that clearly falls foul of the anti-avoidance provision. Indeed, it was the intention that before the cut-off date it should take advantage of a lease and leaseback arrangement, so I cannot assure my hon. Friend that we shall necessarily deal with it as sympathetically as those caught innocently. I shall look at the issue again, however, because of my hon. Friend's interest.
Column 249A number of other hon. Members, particularly the hon. Members for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) and for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall) spoke as though all coach and bus transport would suddenly become standard-rated. I assure them that that is not the intention. Indeed, many of the types of transport mentioned in the debate are already standard-rated. For instance, hot air balloons that go up with fewer than 12 passengers are already standard-rated. Therefore no change is in prospect.