Debate to call for return of VAT on fuel payments to Air Ambulance Services
I co-sponsored a backbench business debate in the House of Commons today, which called on the Government to refund to Air Ambulance Services all the VAT they pay on the fuel that they use. The debate was co-sponsored by the Conservative MP for Hexham, Guy Opperman, and the motion had all party support.
I was first approached about this issue by my constituent, Ken Sharpe, who drew my attention to the fact that special provision is made in the EU VAT Directive for the zero-rating of fuel for use by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, which provides an essential rescue service often in extremely difficult conditions, but no provision is made for the Air Ambulance Service, which provides a life-saving rapid response emergency service to millions of people every year. EU legislation does not allow individual countries like the UK to unilaterally extend zero rates of VAT to other charities or rescue services.
Ken started an online e-petition which calls on the Government to refund to Air Ambulance Services all the VAT which they pay on the fuel they use. The petition now has 150,000 signatures. I tabled an Early Day Motion supporting Ken’s call, and called once again for this in today’s debate.
The Yorkshire Air Ambulance is one of 20 Air Ambulance Service independent charities in the UK providing a service to 5 million people across Yorkshire. They operate two helicopters in the region, one based at Bagby Airport in Thirsk and the other at Leeds Bradford International Airport, which enables them to cover a vast area that includes major cities and motorways, as well as rural and isolated locations. Their work includes attending road traffic collisions, hospital transfers and other medical emergencies where a road ambulance would have difficulty attending quickly enough. Their paramedics have clinical and healthcare skills, but also have to have navigational skills to get to incidents quickly and to ensure the safety of the aircrew as well as their patients.
To keep providing this life-saving service, the charity needs to raise £7,200 per day to keep both of Yorkshire’s Air Ambulances maintained and in the air. Last year the Yorkshire Air Ambulance purchased around 170,000 litres of fuel and incurred £5,799.06 in VAT costs. It would help them and all other Air Ambulance Services enormously, if the Government agreed to return to them the amount of VAT which is collected. It would cost the Government only around £150,000 a year in total to refund VAT payments to our twenty Air Ambulance Services.
The motion that was debated today was as follows:
That this House supports wholeheartedly the work and actions of the Air Ambulance Service nationally, and all the individual crew members and staff, who provide an outstanding service to people up and down the UK; notes that the Air Ambulance Service is a charitable organisation, funded by donations given by the general public, and without any direct funding from Government; further notes that the Air Ambulance Service has saved successive governments millions of pounds; notes that the Air Ambulance Service provides an emergency service similar to the Lifeboat Service, and that the Lifeboat Service has been excluded from the EU VAT Directive on fuel costs since 1977, whereas the Air Ambulance Service has been required to pay for VAT on fuel; notes that successive governments have failed to provide a rebate or exemption to the Air Ambulance Service for this VAT; calls on the Government to conduct an urgent review of this situation; and further calls on the Government, in the next 12 months, to consider providing for grants to the Air Ambulance Service commensurate to the sums incurred by the Air Ambulance Service for the VAT on the fuel they purchase, and to publish the outcome of that review within this timescale.
I am pleased that the motion was agreed to. I have tabled a Parliamentary Question to check whether the Department of Health will carry out the review, as required by the motion. If it will not, I will contact the Treasury to secure confirmation that they will carry out the review. Yesterday’s debate can be read in full here.