Vale of Clwyd Labour AM Ann Jones challenged Liberal Democrat AMs to oppose the UK Government’s plans to raise VAT, saying the tax would have a huge impact on low-income groups all across Wales and damage the nation’s fragile economy.
Chancellor George Osborne announced in his Budget two weeks ago that VAT would be increased by 2.5% to 20% from next January, even though during the election campaign the Conservatives said they had no plans to increase VAT and the Liberal-Democrats campaigned against any rise.
Ms Jones said: “The decision to increase VAT completely blows out of the water any pretence that this is a progressive government acting in the interests of Welsh people.
“VAT hits low-income groups the hardest and will end up having a huge impact on thousands of vulnerable families and communities right across Wales. The Government needs to understand the depth of feeling there is against an unfair, ill-thought out tax hike like this that causes most pain to those that earn the least.”
Rather than pontificating, she should have addressed her Labour colleagues in Westminster. Not one of the 26 Labour MPs from Wales bothered to vote with Plaid's MPs to stop the VAT rise. Among them was Ian Lucas, Wrexham's MP.
Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards said:
“I am astounded at the sheer brazenness of Welsh Labour. This was an opportunity to right a big wrong. It is unforgivable that they couldn’t even be bothered to vote – a decision that will haunt them for many years.
“The Plaid SNP amendment voted on last was designed to stop the unfair VAT hike. There is no question that VAT slams the poorest in society by swallowing up income and will damage many small businesses in our town centres.
“Placing a regressive tax on the poor is perhaps not surprising coming from the Tories, but yet again their lapdogs the LibDems have followed suit in support this hike – despite Welsh MPs such as Roger Williams arguing that he would vote against such a move only a few weeks ago.
“Wales has been badly let down by this decision.
“Welsh Labour didn’t even show the strength of their convictions over this. They just sat on their hands and let the ConDem government walk all over them.
“Labour can never claim to defend Welsh interests again – they are too weak to stand up to damaging Tory policies. People will not forget this betrayal easily and I’ve no doubt this decision will haunt them.
“Throughout the election campaign Labour candidates claimed that only they could stop the Tories. Now they are content to sit and watch the ConDems impose painful taxes and ruthless cuts on our most vulnerable sections of society.”
To nobody's surprise the Lib Dem MPs from Wales voted for the ConDem cuts - just months after condemning such a rise themselves.
UPDATE: Ian Lucas is happy enough to speak out against the VAT increase in Westminster but not vote against it.