Bakers stage renewed effort to avert 20% VAT

The baking industry is set to meet HM Revenue & Customs' officials for last-ditch talks about the introduction of 20% VAT on hot pie and pasties.

The meeting, with members of the National Association of Master Bakers (NAMB) and high-ranking officials from Greggs and the Cornish Pasty Association, comes after outraged bakers staged a demo outside Downing Street.

Campaigners handed over more than half a million signatures opposing the move and British Baker has learned that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has asked his Liberal Democrat MPs to keep him appraised on the VAT situation following the demonstration. The bakery delegation will meet with HMRC officials ahead of the 18 May consultation deadline, but no date had been set before British Baker went to press.

Mike Holling, chairman of the NAMB, told British Baker: "We must respond to the government's proposal before the deadline. We do not want to plead with them for our cause; we're trying to come up with a solution by working with members from the industry. We must keep pressure on them at all times and meeting with the HMRC is one step closer to preventing the tax."

HMRC officials have already visited shops owned by Greggs on a fact-finding mission and now have accepted an invitation by Christopher Beaney, NAMB director and owner of Beaney's Bakery in Kent, to see how the move will affect smaller-sized craft bakers in the UK.

Stephen Gilbert, Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay, attended the demo and tried to overturn the tax in parliament on 19 April, which was narrowly defeated by 35 votes. He said: "I've had a wealth of MPs, including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, come to me and ask for more insight. There is an appetite in parliament to find a workable solution and there needs to be a compromise that works for the baking industry and is something customers understand.

"The nation isn't going to let this drop, so what I would say is contact your local constituency and MP, write to the Treasury's consultation and tell them that there will be a loss of jobs and investment in this country if this 20% VAT goes ahead."

The bakers' demo saw more than 500 bakers attend outside Downing Street dressed in bakers' whites holding 'Save our Savouries' placards. Addressing the crowd, McMeikan said: "My fellow bakers, I wish we were standing here together in happier circumstances. The gravity of the situation that faces our industry must not, and cannot, be underestimated.

"We come here today with peaceful intentions, but resolute determination to fight to the bitter end this proposed tax, that will have a devastating impact on ordinary people who simply cannot afford to pay 20% more for everyday food. This government is showing itself to be out of touch: out of touch with ordinary hard-working people; out of touch with the challenges facing high streets; out of touch with the poorest in this country that need higher aspiration and hope, not higher prices."

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