Bakers protest against 'pasty tax' at Downing Street

 

Cornish pasty makers have turned out in force outside Downing Street, braving torrential downpours to deliver a petition from half a million people opposing the controversial "pasty tax".

Donned out in chefs' hats and white T-shirts emblazoned with "SOS - save our savouries", around 500 supporters gathered to rally opposition against Chancellor George Osborne's bid to make hot takeaway snacks subject to 20 per cent VAT.

Mike Holling, of the National Association of Master Bakers, said the implementation of VAT would cause job losses.

He said: "I'm told by my colleagues in the West Country they envisage job losses - one of the things I want to know is from the HMRC or Treasury ... what they envisage. There is a strong suggestion people will lose their jobs and we can ill-afford that at the moment."

Mark Muncey, chairman of the Cornish Pasty Association, said: "This is a shock tax, a sweeping tax, badly thought-out and badly presented, and it needs to be changed.

"There'll definitely be job losses. It's a 20 per cent increase and people can't afford that."

The demonstration, organised by high street bakery chain Greggs and the National Association of Master Bakers, drew support from passers-by and motorists who beeped their horns as they drove through Westminster.

Taking a loudhailer, Ken McMeikan, chief executive of Greggs, stood on a step ladder and addressed the protesters, saying they had fought to develop a strong industry which would be badly hit as customers could not afford the VAT introduction.

Being loudly cheered, Mr McMeikan said: "The gravity of the situation that faces our industry must not and cannot be underestimated. For generations these bakers have strived to create a bakery industry that is loved by customers for the bakers' skills, affordability and delicious produce. We have to say no to higher prices."

In driving rain, the baking representatives were joined by Cornish MPs to present the petition, in 21 boxes, at Number 10.

The demonstration, organised by high street bakery chain Greggs and the National Association of Master Bakers, drew support from passers-by and motorists who beeped their horns as they drove through Westminster.

Taking a loudhailer, Ken McMeikan, chief executive of Greggs, stood on a step ladder and addressed the protesters, saying they had fought to develop a strong industry which would be badly hit as customers could not afford the VAT introduction.

Being loudly cheered, Mr McMeikan said: "The gravity of the situation that faces our industry must not and cannot be underestimated.

"For generations these bakers have strived to create a bakery industry that is loved by customers for the bakers' skills, affordability and delicious produce.

"We have to say no to higher prices."

In driving rain, the baking representatives were joined by Cornish MPs to present the petition, in 21 boxes, at Number 10.

Stephen Gilbert, MP for St Austell and Newquay, said he hoped politicians will today be lured by the taste of an authentic Cornish pasty when he hosts a campaign event in the Houses of Parliament.

The Lib Dem politician was joining forces with the Western Morning News to hand out baked goods in an attempt to garner support.

He said: "Opposition to George Osborne's proposed 'pasty tax' is continuing to grow.

"I urge the Government to listen to the strength of feeling being demonstrated today and review their unworkable and damaging proposal.

"It is simply wrong for the Government to impose a tax on the humble Cornish pasty while luxurious caviar remains tax free. If these plans go ahead, it could result in 400 job cuts and losses to the Cornish economy of £7.5 million.

"My fight in Parliament will not stop until these plans are dropped and I urge everyone to continue to sign the petition."

Last week a move by Labour to block the tax was defeated despite a revolt by 14 coalition backbenchers - nine Tories and five Liberal Democrats.

The Prime Minister previously told the Commons he understood why "feelings in Cornwall run high on this" but insisted it was unfair that other takeaway food was covered by the tax while pasties were not.

PA

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