In the Great Yarmouth area, the tourist industry is worth an estimated £500 million to the local economy. In terms of accommodation, most people would think that visitors stay in a hotel or a local guesthouse. In fact, around half the tourists that come here on holiday stay in a static caravan in one of our excellent holiday parks.
Therefore, what may seem an obscure debate about applying VAT to the sale of static caravans is an important issue for my constituency. This new measure was buried away in the pages of the Budget report announced by the Chancellor last month. It is an attempt by the Treasury to address an anomaly (in their eyes) where the sale of a touring caravan attracts VAT, the sale of a static caravan attracts none. Along with many other MPs, particularly those representing coastal communities, I have lobbied ministers to drop this specific measure as it addresses a so called anomaly that doesn’t need addressing.
Following our lobbying the Government has extended the consultation deadline on this issue and following a debate in the House of Commons yesterday it is clear the Treasury are keen to hear from the industry in that consultation to ensure they have a full understanding of any impact this would have. My office can forward details of how to take part in the consultation, which, runs until mid May and the government will then respond formally in the summer.
Much of the debate centres on the technical specification of static caravan – should they be treated the same as mobile holiday accommodation or should they be treated like caravans that are used as park homes.
This is a good example of how MPs play an important role in scrutinising the fine detail of Government policy and working together can tell ministers that they have got it wrong and should think again.