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York MP secures air ambulance debate
A YORK MP has secured a Westminster debate on whether air ambulances should be repaid the VAT charged for the fuel they use.
Politicians of all parties have backed a motion by Hugh Bayley, who represents York Central, calling for the Government to refund the money to 20 services across the UK, including the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, which would come to about £150,000 a year.
European Union rules on VAT allow a “zero-rating” for fuel used by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, but similar provision is not in place for air ambulances. Mr Bayley took up the issue after a constituent, Ken Sharpe, began an online petition, which now has 150,000 signatures.
The Yorkshire Air Ambulance operates two helicopters which attend crashes and other emergencies and also transfer people to hospital when road ambulances would struggle to get there quickly enough. The charity has to raise £7,200 a day to keep the helicopters maintained and in the air, and last year bought about 170,000 litres of fuel which cost it £5,799 in VAT.
Labour MP Mr Bayley’s motion, which will be debated next Thursday, is co-sponsored by Hexham’s Conservative MP Guy Opperman. Mr Bayley said: “The Yorkshire Air Ambulance is entirely reliant on donations from the public to keep saving lives.
“Their paramedics have clinical and healthcare skills, but also navigational skills to get to incidents quickly. They provide a valuable service for people in our region and the air ambulance is as vital as the lifeboat service.
“It would get an enormous benefit by having the VAT it pays for fuel repaid to them. We are not talking about an enormous amount of money here.”
EU legislation also does not allow countries to extend zero VAT rates to other charities or rescue services, making the lifeboat service an exception.