Hudghton (Greens/EFA), on behalf of the Greens/EFA Group - Mr President, on the subject of reduced rates of VAT for labour-intensive services, it is almost a year since Parliament approved a report, for which I was rapporteur, that overwhelmingly supported the principle that all Member States should have the right to implement the scheme. It is disappointing to see that no progress has been made in the past year. I stated at the time that we should, of course, have equality amongst the Member States, but also that we should be pressing the Council to make this principle a permanent feature of our hopes of achieving the Lisbon Strategy. I accept that it can be difficult to quantify the positive benefits in terms of job creation, but I am also convinced that suddenly reapplying VAT to labour-intensive services will have a negative impact. I know from personal experience in a small business in the construction sector that having to charge VAT at the full rate has an impact on consumer choice. In a significant number of cases consumers choose to go where VAT is not applied. This resolution, which all the groups have supported and which will be voted on today, is reasonable. This is the least we can expect from the Council if we are not to see a sudden shock being triggered by the end of this scheme, in which I would hope Member States can be encouraged to participate more fully so that we can build up data on the beneficial impacts, which I am sure can be quantified.

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