David Cameron was forced to defend a proposed “pasty tax” yesterday as a favourite pasty seller warned that the Westcountry would be hardest hit by the levy.
The Prime Minister also faces a rebellion from the three Conservative MPs in Cornwall uneasy at “ill-thought-out” plans to slap VAT on the region’s favourite dish.
Mr Cameron attempted to burnish his Westcountry
credentials yesterday, claiming at a press conference: “I am a pasty-eater myself. I go to Cornwall on holiday. I love a hot pasty.”
But he believed that adding 20 per cent to the cost of hot takeaway pies and pasties – bringing shops into line with the VAT charged since 1984 on takeaway burger bars, fried chicken restaurants and fish and chip shops – would “level the playing field”, aides said last night.
The Prime Minister told journalists: “What the Government has to try to do is make sure the VAT rules are fairly applied.”
Mr Cameron name-checked the West Cornwall Pasty
Company for its “very good” pasties.
But it later emerged the last pasty he ate was not from
one of the firm’s branches in Leeds, as claimed.
His comments prompted
the company, which has its origins in Helston, West Cornwall, to launch a withering attack on the tax announced in Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget last week.
The firm warned the implications on the Westcountry economy were being “overlooked” and claimed 13,000 jobs dependent on Cornish pasties could be “decimated”.
Chief executive Gavin Williams said the decision was
too abrupt, would undermine plans to expand beyond 80 shops across the country and add confusion to the tax regime. Mr Williams added: “This is about the Cornish pasty industry as a whole
and we need to stand up for everyone within it.”
Mr Osborne prompted nationwide criticism on Tuesday when he said cold pasties would escape VAT, but hot dishes would not.
Tabloid newspapers compared the “eat cold pasties” sentiment to Marie Antoinette’s infamous “let them eat cake” refrain to peasants during the French Revolution.
As the backlash continued, Cornwall’s three Conservative MPs issued a statement calling for all the “largest number possible from Cornwall” to respond to a Treasury consultation. Sheryll Murray, MP for South East Cornwall, said the tax was “ill-thought-out”.
Chancellor ‘mocking’ pasty status
The UK’s biggest “authentic” Cornish pasty maker says
the Government’s unpopular “pasty tax” has dealt a “crushing” blow to the industry.
The West Cornwall Pasty Company, which sells the delicacy from scores of kiosks up and down the country, found itself at the centre of the growing revolt against plans to impose VAT on baked food
yesterday when the Prime Minister revealed himself as a fan.
But the firm, which was set up in Helston, then sold for more than £30 million, says the rise “makes a mockery” of the pasty’s protected status under European law.
It vowed the 20 per cent rise would not be passed on to its customers, but estimated that the 13,000-strong industry could be “decimated” by the measure.
Chief executive Gavin Williams praised David Cameron for name-checking one of the company’s products but called on him instead for “clarity and leadership”.
“We would have hoped that if he had been rubbing shoulders with our customers, he’d better understand the impact that this move will have on them, and our sector and all the great suppliers within it,” he added.
“This is not about the West Cornwall Pasty Company but about the Cornish pasty industry as a whole and as the country’s biggest specialist
retailer we need to stand up for everyone within it.”
The company sells Falmouth-made pasties which are delivered to more than 80 outlets and then cooked on site.
The Cornish Pasty Association, which represents 50
producers, said it was
“disappointed” by the tax and concerned about the impact on the industry and economy in the Duchy. Chairman Mark Muncey said he was working “to find ways to minimise the impact” of the rise.
The hot topic in the Twittersphere...
Sports stars and celebrities yesterday took to social media website Twitter to voice their opinions on the “pasty tax”.
England cricketer Graeme Swann: “Greggs pasties should be taxed because they are dreadful. Real Cornish pasties should be subsidised because they’re sensational!”
Television presenter Phillip Schofield: “Watching the news and rolling my eyes at the politicians frantically lining up to tell us when they last had a pasty!! Good grief.”
BBC business editor Robert Peston: “Pasty scoffers versus George Osborne. The Chancellor should probably be scared, quite scared.”
Political blogger Guido Fawkes: “We now live in a country where caviar is untaxed and a hot pasty is... go figure.”
Comedian and television presenter Sue Perkins: “SO – if it’s hot, it’s bacteria nuked & 20% taxed. If it’s cold, you don’t pay the tax, but you’re playing e coli roulette.”
BBC broadcaster Martha Kearney: “Burning question of the day... should pasties be eaten hot or cold?”