Ken Clarke backtracks on VAT

On Channel 4 News last night, Ken Clarke categorically denied that he had ever called for a VAT cut. In fact, he repeatedly called for a cut in November 2008.

On Channel 4 News last night, Ken Clarke categorically denied that he had ever called for a VAT cut. But Left Foot Forward can this morning reveal that in the autumn of 2008, Clarke called repeatedly for a VAT cut before and after it was announced in the pre-Budget report by Alistair Darling.

Last night in his TV debate with Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, Ken Clarke denied point blank that he had ever supported a cut in VAT.

SNOW: If we look into these figures, the real cause of getting the 0.1 per cent [growth] was the cut in VAT which you agreed with.

CLARKE: No I didn’t.

MANDELSON: You called for it before you were put into line by George Osborne.

CLARKE: No I did not call for it.

Watch it:

On November 11, 2008, following an interview on BBC News, Clarke was quoted in his local paper, the Nottingham Evening Post, in an article titled “Clarke suggests VAT cut”:

“It would have to be temporary because public finances could only take a short-term hit,” said the Rushcliffe MP.

“There is going to be a big drop in consumer spending, and a cut may encourage people to buy something which they otherwise wouldn’t have.”

Later that month in an interview to The Times, Clarke clearly calls for a VAT cut:

Despite his loyalty to the party leadership, he is not afraid to put forward his own ideas. The Government should, he says, consider cutting VAT to 15 per cent in the Pre-Budget Report on Monday – an idea that is certainly not Tory party policy. “If it’s possible to afford a fiscal stimulus I would go for VAT because the only case for a fiscal stimulus is to stimulate spending and consumer demand, so the tax on spending is the one to go for. But it should be temporary.”

Just two days later, Chancellor Alistair Darling announced the 2½ per cent cut VAT.

In the Commons on November 26, 2008, Clarke said:

“Everyone knows that my preference for fiscal stimulus, if we could afford it, would be a VAT reduction, but I do not have time to argue that case. All possible approaches have upsides and downsides, but VAT reductions have a bigger impact on big ticket items such as cars, furniture and carpets, particularly when we approach the magic period in which the temporary VAT reduction is about to go up again.”

17 Responses to “Ken Clarke backtracks on VAT”

  1. Ellie Gellard

    Well done to @leftfootfwd ,I dont rly get football,but I believe that's what you call an own goal, Ken //bit.ly/au81uT

  2. Gareth Wyn Abbit

    RT @leftfootfwd: Clarke backtracks on VAT cut. "I did not call for it" Er…you did, Ken //bit.ly/au81uT via @msgracefh @BevaniteEllie

  3. Chris Huang-Leaver

    RT @BevaniteEllie: Well done to @leftfootfwd ,I dont rly get football,but I believe that's what you call an own goal, Ken //bit.ly/au81uT

  4. Nick

    Ken Clarke called for a cut in the VAT rate “if the county could afford it, which it could not because UK plc is broke”. If Clarke was for the VAT reduction then why did he vote against it in parliament? At the time of the vote Clarke was still a back bencher and not a member of the front bench and as such not bound by collective responsibility. He voted against it because the county could not afford it!

  5. Ellie Kilyon

    RT @BevaniteEllie: Well done to @leftfootfwd ,I dont rly get football,but I believe that's what you call an own goal, Ken //bit.ly/au81uT

  6. Mark

    Busted! Well done Will for exposing how slippery some politicians can be. Something tells me you might not be as quick to dig up evidence on, say, Gordon Brown’s u-turns?

    But The evidence suggests Mandelson, Darling and Clarke have been proved wrong. The VAT cut didn’t help much, if you are going to cut VAT then you might as well do it in style and drop it by a lot more. Only EU rules would have blocked this. A 2.5% cut was miserly and so was, in general, the rest of the fiscal stimulus. That’s partly why the UK had the longest recession going, the measures to boost the economy were so weak.

    Sadly Mandelson is cutting the university budget and Darling’s PBR cut investment spending. These are the sorts of investments we should be boosting, not cutting, as they help create growth and prosperity.

  7. James Hepplestone

    RT @leftfootfwd: Ken Clarke backtracks on VAT cut. "I did not call for it" Er…yes you did, Ken. //bit.ly/au81uT

  8. Tracey Cheetham

    RT @leftfootfwd: Ken Clarke backtracks on VAT cut. "I did not call for it" Er…yes you did, Ken. //bit.ly/au81uT

  9. Political Scrapbook

    Hague very brave to mention VAT given this morning's revelations //bit.ly/au81uT Hasn't he been briefed properly? #pmqs

  10. James Cowley

    RT @psbook: Hague very brave to mention VAT given this morning's revelations //bit.ly/au81uT Hasn't he been briefed properly? #pmqs

  11. Quietzapple

    Alka seltzers RT @psbook
    Hague very brave to mention VAT given this morning's revelations //bit.ly/au81uT Hasn't he been briefed #pmqs

  12. Mr. Sensible

    What a mess!

    I watched PMQs on the web this lunchtime, and I was amused when William Hague said:
    “and the UK Government have just raised the rate of VAT, which is hardly a fiscal stimulus.”
    And, this is the same Ken Clark who, as this website reported, told the Sunday Times we should be cautious about “unsupportable cuts” and then, in the Nottingham Evening Post this year fully supported Nottinghamshire County Council’s proposed budget, as again reported by this blog.

    Keep up the good work, Will!

  13. Anon E Mouse

    Mr.Sensible – Do you think that it’s just a different opinion or view? If you tried that in the Labour Party you’d have to make sure Gordon Brown, the Dear Leader didn’t throw a Nokia at you.

    Storm in a teacup anyone?

  14. Roy Bailey

    RT @tchee RT @leftfootfwd: Ken Clarke backtracks on VAT cut. "I did not call for it" Er…yes you did, Ken. //bit.ly/au81uT

  15. Linky Love: 28th January 2010 « Left Outside

    […] Will Straw exposes Ken Clarke’s attempt to rewrite history: On Channel 4 News last night, Ken Clarke categorically denied that he had ever called for a VAT […]

  16. Mr. Sensible

    ‘Anon E Mouse’, the thing is their view on the VAT cut is all over the place.

    How can William Hague; one of Cameron’s shadow cabinet, and in fact the deputy leader of the Tory party, say that?

    And, if County Hall’s cuts, which Ken Clark supports aren’t “unsupportable,” I don’t know what is.

    I don’t know about storm in a tee cup; how about a storm with the Tories all at sea? Perhaps that might be more suitable.

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