Given the large sums government feels its must spend in the public sector, one option that is worth pursuing is to ensure non tax paying visitors pay their fair share towards it all.
I have been looking with some Parliamentary colleagues at ways we can ensure visitors pay for what they need and use from the UK public sector, just as we taxpayers do through our taxes.
One obvious area has been the way foreign hauliers do not have to pay Vehicle Excise Duty to use our roads. They also often avoid diesel and petrol duty by filling up on the continent before and after travelling in the UK. I therefore welcome the government’s decision to introduce a new lorry user fee for our roads, and to rebate UK hauliers by cutting their VED to offset it. It is a neat way of ensuring the overseas lorry tax is not discriminatory and does not fall foul of EU rules. We called for a solution to the problem of penalty charges on UK businesses in the Competitiveness Review before the election, pointing out that UK hauliers pay a lot more tax than some of their continental competitors.
If people come to the UK from overseas from a country without reciprocal free health service rights, they should be invoiced for any health care they need whilst with us. A Ten Minute Rule Bill was proposed last week and passed its second reading without division, as a prompt to the government to get on with ensuring fair charging for non taxpaying visitors for the health care they use. They can come insured, or they can pay as they go, but they should expect to be charged. This Bill is unlikely to become law owing to Parliamentary time pressures. The government and the NHS has the power anyway to require payments.
We need to think about Museums, Galleries and other freee public institutions. Shouldn’t there be a charge for tourists visiting these facilities, just as they pay for entry into National Trust or other private sector Visitor attractions?
The government is reviewing the issue of the free movement of workers within the EU. The UK accepts the free movement of those with jobs to go to, or of people who can maintain themselves whilst seeking a job in the UK. The Treaty did not say anything about the free movement of benefit recipients. There is need for greater clarity about what rights a worker has who comes to another EU country and who then wants state financial assistance.
The government also needs to answer the questions raised this week-end in the Sunday Telegraph about payments to foreign consultants from the Overseas Aid budget. Why did they need any consultant at all? Why, if they needed one, did they not find UK consultants that were capable of delivering the job at a good price?