Saturday, 5 July 2008

Eat y'self fitter (2)

The Jaffa cake - is it a cake, is it a biscuit - saga is well-known, with its makers desperate to prove it was in fact a biscuit, so that it wouldn't be subject to VAT. (Cakes are, biscuits aren't; don't ask me why). Now the Daily Mail brings up the important story that Pringles have been declared to be biscuits not crisps. In a High Court judgment a QC successfully argued that 'A Pringle does not taste like a crisp, or otherwise behave like one. It is totally different.'

So if someone eats their way through half a tube of Pringles while watching the football, does that mean they've eaten 50 biscuits in one go?

17 comments:

Devil's Kitchen said...

"The Jaffa cake - is it a cake, is it a biscuit - saga is well-known, with its makers desperate to prove it was in fact a biscuit, so that it wouldn't be subject to VAT. (Cakes are, biscuits aren't; don't ask me why)."

Well, Kerry, you are a member of Parliament and so maybe—just maybe—you ought to go and look it up? Or if you are unable to do it yourself, could you not ask one of the members of staff that you spent £90,611 of our money on last year to do it for you?

For the record, I have no idea if the biscuit distinction was in the original EU Directive on VAT or wether it was gold-plating by our government. I suspect it's the former, but why don't you go and find out?

DK

Fidothedog said...

Well if one is worried about eating 50 biscuits in one go, there is always the "John Prescott" method of weight reduction:

Two fingers down the throat...

Kerry said...

Yes, I'll get my massively overpaid and underworked team of researchers and caseworkers to spend the rest of the week checking obscure bits of tax legislation, with instructions not to stop until they find out exactly which categories Hula Hoops, Wotsits and Quavers fall into. And let's not forget Twiglets.

For all those who constantly raise the expenditure on staff and office costs - would you rather I didn't employ anyone, didn't follow up on casework, didn't have anyone answer the phones or open the door to the hundreds of people who contact me asking me for help or advice each year? What point exactly are you making? Or are you just trying to score cheap political points?

Devil's Kitchen said...

Kerry,

Several things: first, I appreciate that your staff are probably busy.

Second: my point about your expenditure was to highlight the fact that you are joint 60th, out of 646, for staff costs. That would imply that you either employ a greater number of staff than the norm, or that you pay them more. I imagine that, either way, they could find some time.

Thirdly, and most importantly, MPs should not primarily be social workers; for that, we employ... well... social workers.

You are legislators: that is your prime function. You are, in fact, one of only 646 people who can make law in this country.

One might have thought that, as a legislator, it was reasonably important that you understood the laws on which you vote.

As such, if there is a piece of law that you don't know about, then I think that I might reasonably expect you to look it up.

"Yes, I'll get my massively overpaid and underworked team of researchers and caseworkers to spend the rest of the week checking obscure bits of tax legislation, with instructions not to stop until they find out exactly which categories Hula Hoops, Wotsits and Quavers fall into. And let's not forget Twiglets."

That was not what I was asking at all. What I was pointing out is that you should understand why there are different categories for VAT: not only because it is one of the government's primary revenue streams with income projected at over £80 billion this year, but because they also affect your constituents' lives.

You might like to start with the 1972 European Communities Act, for instance.*

And are you aware of the EU Commission's recent proposed changes to VAT? These, too, will affect your constituents. True, since VAT is an EU imposed tax, there is little that you can do to change rates or categorisations, but you should know about it nonetheless.

To return to my third point, laws are important because they control how people in this country live. And yes, the laws that you vote on are vastly more important than your casework; but the laws that you pass also affect your constituency casework.

Am I scoring political points? Sure, but not party political points: I am a classical liberal/libertarian and thus have a pretty low opinion of MPs of all stripes.

You just offered yourself up as a target by declaring your ignorance.

DK


* If I, as an interested amateur, can be bothered to look this stuff up, then I think that it is reasonable that you -- who are employed full-time, and employ others, to do this work -- should also do so.

Bishop Hill said...

would you rather I didn't employ anyone, didn't follow up on casework, didn't have anyone answer the phones or open the door to the hundreds of people who contact me asking me for help or advice each year?

Philip Hollobone manages it.

Old Holborn said...

Careful now Kerry.

Remember who pays your wages, expenses and perks.

US. The "little people", the "children".

Jack of Kent said...

"For all those who constantly raise the expenditure on staff and office costs - would you rather I didn't employ anyone, didn't follow up on casework, didn't have anyone answer the phones or open the door to the hundreds of people who contact me asking me for help or advice each year?"

Perhaps if you didn't waste time blogging on silly stuff like this then you wouldn't need so much staff to cover you in doing your proper and important job.

TheFatBigot said...

Those with responsibility for making new laws need to understand how any proposed new law affects existing law. In order to do that they need to know what the existing law is and what lies behind it. "Don't ask me why" is not an option.
Everything you said about the Jaffa cake case was wrong. You should have looked it up before opining, it took me 30 seconds to find the judgment of the VAT tribunal online without the assistance of any staff.
The onus now seems to be on you to prove that you are not just lobby fodder. I look forward to following your Parliamentary work to see whether you can do so.

Kerry said...

Disgraceful isn't it. An MP arrives home at 10.30pm after a full day in Westminster, and chooses to switch on Newsnight and do some blogging, when she should be holding constituency surgeries or dictating letters to her overpaid and underworked staff. And on Sunday she spent two hours posting a reply on her blog to smokers, when she should have been .... what? Having a life?

I understand entirely why some foods are VAT-able and others aren't. I just don't get the bizarre logic which classes some items as basic food stuffs when they clearly aren't. And OK, I got the Jaffa cake thing the wrong way round (which now makes the Pringles thing even more bizarre). It was a light-hearted blog, posted because I thought some people might find it amusing. If you want an in-depth discussion of the anomalies of VAT regulations I'm sure there's an HMRC expert somewhere out in the blogosphere who'd be only too willing to indulge you.

My staffing costs are relatively high primarily because my office is busy. And that's down to three factors. (A) I have a high immigration/ asylum caseload; (B) I have a lot of politically engaged/ politically aware people in my constituency, who write me lots of letters and sign up to postcard campaigns (I get 10 times more policy letters than the MP I share an office with); and (C) I actually bother to write back to everyone who contacts me and take up their concerns, even if they've just signed a petition or a postcard.

And if you want evidence of what I do when I'm not blogging, you can check out my main website or theyworkforyou.com. Like the child
poverty debate I did this afternoon, for example.

But better stop now - wouldn't want to be accused of not doing 'proper work'. Although I seem to get just as much stick for not replying to blog posts... Can I win? Why do I do this? Some bizarre idea that politicians ought to be a little bit more open and accessible to the public? Or am I the Max Moseley of Westminster and just get some weird kick out of all the abuse?

Old Holborn said...

"Why do I do this?"

The money? The power? The perks? The feeling of self importance? The greed? The contempt for little people?

We really should be hanging more of you lot.

Kerry said...

Just to clarify things yet again... Why do I this? was a reference to blogging, not being an MP.

Very few MPs blog, and even fewer allow unmoderated comments. Some don't allow comments at all.

I don't want to go down that path, but the alternative seems to be providing a public platform for unpleasant people to use me as a proxy for venting all their vitriol about politicians and the political process. (On which point, I really appreciate the fact there is a proper debate going on on the Kill the Poor tag - I may even join in at some point.)

Old Holborn said...

"Very few MPs blog, and even fewer allow unmoderated comments. Some don't allow comments at all."

I'm sorry, are you trying to set yourself up as some sort of Joan of Arc?

I am a libertarian. Which means by default that YOU are one of crazy 646 who decide everything for the 60 million who live in this country.

War in Iraq? YOU decided that. Poverty in the world? YOU can change it. You and the other 645 have decided and ruled over every single aspect of my life. I got no say in the Lisbon Treaty. Or 42 days internment. YOU DID THOUGH.

In the next year, there will grinding poverty because YOU screwed it up. You won't feel it of course, you're "doing your bit".

Of course you will blame "external factors" but the only people who could change anything are the crazy 646. And they've done nothing. You've done NOTHING.

So, you have earned my utter contempt. Only sixty years ago, we really did hang politicians and only a few short years ago, we really did riot over unjust taxes.

Whereas 60 million of us used to have to listen to your voices, we now have our own ( well, until our masters in Brussels put a stop to that) so I will shout at the top of my voice to all that will listen that ALL of our woes, every single last one of them is down to YOU and your 645 colleagues, because none of us, apart from you, can change a damn thing.

You WILL be held accountable.

Lass said...

I’ve just had a look at Kerry’s TheyWorkForYou profile, and decided to look beyond the simple stats on her expenditure to her “proper work”. She’s above average for the number of debates she’s spoken in and above average for the number of written questions. Yes, she is joint 60th in staffing costs, but she is also 34th in the number of emails received via TheyWorkForYou. I don’t know what proportion of MPs’ correspondence this would on average be, but guess it’s a rough guide and Kerry has already said she responds to it all.

I’ve had a look at some of the other comments on recent posts too. I just don’t understand how some of you can be so rude to someone who seems to take her role as a representative pretty seriously. Apologies if I’m wrong, but I’m presuming that not all these people are in Kerry’s area, which leaves me wondering why people are commenting here and not on their own MPs blogs. Maybe they don’t bother to write one, to show they have a human side and what their interests are, and that they are not just a grey suit on a green bench.

Northern Lights said...

Old Holborn - she wasnt elected until 2005 and as such could not have voted for the war. A simple Google search would have prevented such a glaring error

Northern Lights said...

ps. pringles are not biscuits - cant be dunked in tea and cant be covered in chocolate. Case closed.

Kerry said...

Spoken like a true northener! And, as I spotted in the newsagents today, you can now get Pringles in bags. Crisp bags.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Boy! How did I ever miss this bundle of fun? Kerry getting a well-deserved and astute kicking. Great fun, thanks to all involved.

My personal favourite was "Why do I do this? Some bizarre idea that politicians ought to be a little bit more open and accessible to the public?"

Followed by one post after another since where valid comments that disagreed with Kerry's were ignored and/or ridiculed. My sides hurt. :-)