More than 500 bakers protested at Downing Street yesterday over the proposed 20% pasty tax and a petition with more than half a million signatures was handed to the government.
The rally - which was organised by Greggs and the National Association of Master Bakers - heard Ken McMeikan, chief executive of Greggs, accuse the government of being out of touch on the matter.
And, a delegation from Greggs and the NAMB visited parliament following the demonstration to voice their concerns with MPs.
Addressing the crowd, McMeikan said: “My fellow bakers, I wish we were standing here together on Richmond Terrace in happier circumstances. The gravity of the situation that faces our industry must not, and can not, be underestimated. For generations those bakers that went before us have toiled to create a bakery industry that has been loved by customers for the craft bakery skills, affordability and delicious tasting food that only true bakers with real skill can create.
“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 can not afford to pay 20% more for every day food. This government are showing themselves 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.”
NAMB director Christopher Beaney said: “They’ve changed the rules so that if someone comes into our shop and a tray of sausage rolls comes out of the oven, we’re not allowed to sell those sausage rolls unless we put VAT on them, or we say to them ‘hang on 10 minutes and you can have it without VAT. It’s going to be completely impossible to police.”
And referring to a decisions by former Chancellor Nigel Lawson to not tax pies, McMeikan added: “What did he understand that George Osborne and The Treasury struggle to accept or choose to simply ignore? George Osborne and the Treasury claim they are trying to create a level playing field by introducing this VAT. But let me be clear, and I mean crystal clear, the playing field is already level. In fact it’s flat, completely horizontal. Why do I say this with confidence and certainty? I say it because where others, such as chip shops keep food hot they charge VAT. When we keep products hot we charge VAT, it’s a level playing field.”
• See British Baker next week for a full report on the demonstration and for an update on where the campaign goes next. And you can sign the petition online here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/32044