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The Cornish Pasty

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The 2012 Pasty Tax

(see also Pasty Tax - Page 2)


The Cornish Pasty web site is more than a little sad to introduce this web page - the UK government want to add a 20% tax to the price of a pasty because they contend that it is a "hot" food. This stems from the Chancellor of the Exchequer's March 2012 Budget Statement (details below).  Traditionally, the tin miner took his pasty from home very early in the morning to eat at lunch time (or for croust) by which time it would not be "hot". Therefore, the argument can be made that, traditionally, it was not a hot food. VAT (Value Added Tax, currently 20%) is applicable to hot food but not cold. Pasties, like bread and sausage rolls, have been exempted from the tax because they are freshly baked and are cooling down when sold.

There have been many items in newspapers and other media about the new "pasty tax". It has even been asked in Parliament if there will be a new branch of the HMRC Inspectors (Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs), the "Pasty Police", waiting outside pasty shops with their thermometers to test your pasty before you eat it !

There is an official online HM Government e-petition entitled No to VAT on The Cornish Pasty, closing on 23 March 2013 - Please sign it!

Before we forget, Devon (Hansard Column 427) and northern e.g. Wigan/Bolton and York, pasties plus the Scottish bridie, have all been talked of in the House of Commons, particularly here.



The previous situation, before the proposed new tax

The HMRC web page: HM Revenue & Customs VAT Notice about Catering and take-away food: (no doubt will change at  a later date) carries the present information.

This material is reproduced in accordance with the terms of © Crown Copyright .....

4.3 What does ‘hot’ mean?
Hot in this context means above the surrounding air temperature.
Examples of standard-rated sales when sold hot are:

4.4 What about freshly cooked products?
If you sell freshly cooked products for consumption while they are still hot they are standard-rated, see paragraph 4.5.
Some of these products are, however, not sold with such an intention. They may only be hot/warm as they are in the process of cooling down. Examples include pies, pasties, sausage rolls and similar savoury products, cooked chickens or joints of meat, bread products and croissants. The liability will depend, therefore, on how you prepare and sell them.


If they are sold they
- specifically for consumption whilst still hot (as a result of being freshly prepared, baked, cooked, reheated or kept warm - will be standard-rated.
See also paragraph 4.5
- warm simply because they happen to be freshly baked, are in the process of cooling down and are not intended to be eaten while hot; or cold or chilled at the time of purchase - can be zero-rated




The new 2012 situation

The Parliamentary material cited in this article is used under the terms of © Parliamentary Copyright

21 March 2012, Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, made his Budget Statement to the House of Commons .....

Hansard, Column 801 "Financial Statement" records .....

We will also address some of the loopholes and anomalies in our VAT system. For example, at present soft drinks and sports drinks are charged VAT, but sports nutrition drinks are not. Hot takeaway food on the high streets has been charged VAT for more than 20 years, but som e new hot takeaway products in supermarkets are not. Some companies are using the VAT rules that exempt the rental of land to avoid the tax that their competitors are paying. We are publishing our plans today to remove loopholes and anomalies, but we will keep the broad exemptions on food, children’s clothes, printed books and newspapers.

26 March 2012 - Early day motion 2917 proposed .....

"That this House notes with concern the Chancellor's proposals to add VAT to hot takeaway food from bakeries and supermarkets, including the humble Cornish pasty; further notes that thousands of people are employed in thepasty industry in Cornwall, which is worth millions of pounds to the Cornish economy; believes that adding 20 per cent VAT to the price of a pasty will undermine the industry and lead to a drop in sales and local job losses; and calls on the Government to exempt those foods which have significantly advanced Protected Geographical Indication status in Europe, like Cornwall's favourite food, from this proposal." Amendment 2917A1 - VAT ON THE CORNISH PASTY after `notes', insert `although originally invented in Devon,'.

26 March 2012 - Finance Bill presented to Parliament - First reading ..... with the first mention in Parliament of pasty tax? Column 1193

.... Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s cue. Creative industries are vital to Cornwall, but so is creating high-quality food products. There is growing concern throughout Cornwall about the possible unintended consequences of the Budget and about the undoubtedly real threat to the Cornish pasty of the pasty tax. May I seek my hon. Friend’s reassurance that the concerns of pasty makers in my constituency are being listened to and that a solution can be found?
Mr Vaizey: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, which I know the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will respond to fully when he winds up. I congratulate her county on receiving the award for being Britain’s best tourist destination for the third year, and I congratulate her on the extraordinary energy with which she represents her constituency. She and I have had many meetings to discuss various issues in her constituency. [ Interruption. ] You are looking at the clock, Mr Deputy Speaker, so I shall wrap up; however, let me tell my hon. Friend that I hear what she says about the Cornish pasty issue, and I am assured that the Treasury is looking at it seriously.


3 April 2012 - Wikipedia had a page initiated called Pastygate!

Pastygate is the name given to a political scandal in the United Kingdom in March 2012.[1] The government had said that it was going to place a 20 per cent VAT charge on hot pasties.

A Labour Member of Parliament (John Mann MP) asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Conservative MP George Osborne, about when he last ate a Cornish pasty. Osborne answered that he had no idea when he had last eaten one. This answer has been used to show how out of touch with ordinary people the Conservative party had become. The Prime Minister David Cameron later said that he had recently eaten a Cornish pasty at Leeds railway station "and that it was very good". However, The Sun newspaper then reported[2] that there was no place to buy Cornish pasties at Leeds railway station at the time David Cameron claimed to have eaten one there.

The issue, which at first appeared to be unimportant, was then taken up by several other newspapers and political commentators. They pointed out that the Conservatives seemed not to know that the pasty was a basic food eaten by many ordinary people in the country. The VAT rise on the pasty would affect both these customers and the pasty industry itself. These newspapers and commentators made fun of David Cameron's attempt to show himself as a regular pasty eater[3](i.e. as one of the people) and that George Osborne did not know what a pasty was.[4]

[edit]"Don't Tax My Pasty"

In response to the ensuing row, a number of campaigns were begun in order to try and prevent the tax rise on the Cornish pasty. These ranged from The Sun's "Who VAT all the pies" campaign to an on-line petition set up by the Cornish Pasty Society entitled "Don't Tax My Pasty".[5] The issue was also taken up on Facebook and Twitter.[6]


16 April 2012 - Second Reading of Finance (No 4) Bill .....

10.8 pm

John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): What a shambles! What a catastrophe! I refer not to this debate, but to the career prospects of the Chancellor. He went into the Budget as the man destined, in his eyes and others’, to be the next leader of the Conservative party, and he departs from it with a shambles around him.

I thought a bit of sympathy would be in order and I wanted to demonstrate to the Chancellor the impact of his Budget, so the week before Easter, I offered him the opportunity to visit a caravan in Chapel St Leonards. I was prepared to bring in some cheap lagers—the type that I know he likes—from the supermarket, and to cook him one of his favourites: the sausage sandwich. There has been a lot of concentration on the pasty, but the humble sausage sandwich, never before taxed in this country, is now to attract VAT when provided at outlets across the country. The Minister is shaking his head—he does not know the proposals in the Budget. The sausage sandwich cooked hot by the bakers across the country and cooling down below the ambient temperature is VAT-able under the Government’s proposals.

18 April 2012 - Column 315 Prime Minister's Questions .....

Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay) (LD): The Prime Minister will be aware that no VAT is chargeable on caviar, yet the Government propose to charge VAT on the Cornish pasty. Can he tell me why that is fair?

The Prime Minister:
 I understand that feelings in Cornwall run high on this matter, but let me explain that what I think is unfair is that the same products that are subject to VAT when sold in a fish and chip shop can be sold in supermarkets without being subject to VAT. I do not think that that is fair and that is why it is right for us to redraw the boundaries.


Pastygate - Wikipedia -

The UK government’s infamous ‘pasty tax’ is set to get the green light after a group of MP’s failed last night in a bid to overturn changes to the VAT system.
The move to exclude hot pasties from a 20% VAT charge was brought by a coalition of Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MP’s but was defeated by thirty-five votes, paving the way for the levy to be introduced.
The plans have been criticised by many MP’s who see the introduction of the tax as a threat to bakery jobs and disproportionately affecting lower income consumers. Opponents include Prime Minister David Cameron’s former press secretary George Eustace and Liberal Democrat Stephen Gilbert, who quizzed the government on why the proposals would see VAT applied to hot pasties but not caviar.
Government ministers moved to defend the decision to extend VAT to hot bakery products, arguing that the current tax system is complex, unfair and in need of reform.
“The current rules mean customers simply do not know whether they are being charged VAT on hot food, because it currently depends on the particular supplier’s purpose for heating the hot food,” said treasury minister David Gauke.
“The new rules will ensure a level playing field and we are removing the subjective element.”
"The Budget that was set out was a fair Budget and the Government sticks by it. Difficult decisions have to be made, but what has underpinned this is that we want to be fair," added a Government statement.
The House of Commons defeat comes after hundreds of bakers announced that they would participate in a protest march on Downing Street. The event on 26 April has been organised by UK bakery chain Greggs and the National Association of Master Bakers.


Finance (No 4) Bill - Debating the Bill - there are four pages of Hansard that cover this section of the debate where pasties are mentioned many times. The pages can be reached by clicking the "Next Section" link at the bottom of each page, or go back by clicking "Previous" at the top of each page .....

18 Apr 2012 : Column 426 - tip - look for the Column number to find the text .....

New clause 4—Definition of ‘hot food’—

‘No new Order shall be made under section 30(4) of the Value Added Tax Act 1994 which amends the current definition of “hot food” in the Act.’.

New clause 5—Value Added Tax: baked products—

‘No new Order shall be made under section 30(4) or 31(2) of the Value Added Tax Act 1994 which shall affect baked products when no attempt is made to keep the product hot for consumption.’.

18 Apr 2012 : Column 426-426

Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay) (LD): I shall speak to new clause 5, in my name and the names of all Cornish MPs. We have a Cornish coalition moving forward to try to protect the Cornish pasty. The proposals from the Government are, I fear, unfair and unworkable and will be bad for the economy of Cornwall.

Let us consider the economic impact first. Cornwall is already an extremely disadvantaged part of the United Kingdom, being the only part that qualifies for convergence funding, yet the 86 million pasties that are produced contribute £37 million directly to the Cornish economy, and the 40 Cornish Pasty Association members turn over £150 million a year.

Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that the small bakeries in our town centres and villages are keeping or helping to keep those town centres and villages alive? This measure could push them beyond economic viability.

Stephen Gilbert: My hon. Friend makes an entirely relevant point. Some 2,000 people in Cornwall are employed directly in the production of the 84 million pasties a year and that 2,000 does not count the many scores of others who work in bakeries on the high streets of many towns across Cornwall.

We know from YouGov research that 32% of people said that they would stop buying pasties altogether if the VAT extension went forward. Let us assume that one in three is too high a number and that there is a 20% fall in sales. What will that mean? The Cornish pasty producers will lose £30 million a year, £7.5 million will be lost in secondary spend in the Cornish economy and 400 jobs will be lost directly in the industry.

Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Moor View) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that we also have a pasty industry in Devon. He is talking about job losses and I have already come across workers for pasty companies in Cornwall who live in Plymouth and who are already on a three-day week. It is already having an impact and it will get much worse.

Stephen Gilbert: The hon. Lady makes an accurate point. Pasty producers tell me that they are already feeling the squeeze. They are feeling the same pressures as us all through fuel costs and so on. They simply do not feel that they can reduce the net price and therefore absorb that extra 20% so there are serious concerns that it will add problems to an already damaged industry.

The Government’s change is supposed to be about simplification and replacing the subjective test of the purpose of selling the pasty under the current VAT rules with a much simpler test, but in fact we are only replacing one set of anomalies with another. VAT will be charged if the pasty is bought hot but not if it is bought cold. Will we have an army of HMRC inspectors going around with their standard issue thermometers and testing pasties?

Nadhim Zahawi: In my constituency, the Subway franchisee sells cold sandwiches without VAT and must charge VAT when the sandwiches are heated. Spudulike has to charge VAT. The idea that when one serves hot food one has to charge VAT—even in the chip shop in Stratford—is only about levelling the playing field—




There was a long discussion (9.30 - 11.00 am) in Westminster Hall, Houses of Parliament, on Weds. 23rd May 2012, on the subject of Hot Takeaway Food (VAT), from which the pasty tax derives.

The official record, Hansard, covers 21 screens of text so it is clearly not possible to include all this discussion on this web page - please CLICK HERE to see it.

One of the government follies was to propose that all food sold above ambient temperature should be taxed so as to close VAT loopholes. This would mean that even frozen food would become liable to VAT during particularly cold winter weather!


Useful parliamentary search engines

Once again, you d'get nothing but the facts from The Cornish Pasty.


Celtic spiral animation