PLANS to remove GST on food were debated by States Members yesterday, with a vote set to take place today.
The proposal was brought by Deputy Raluca Kovacs, who urged Members to listen and respond to what she described as ‘a proven need’.
A previous proposition dating from 2008 – the year GST was introduced – had been narrowly lost, according to Deputy Kovacs, but had been supported by Deputy Ian Gorst, who at the time represented St Clement but is now Treasury Minister and serves St Ouen, St Peter and St Mary.
‘Somewhere between Le Hocq and L’Etacq, Deputy Gorst has performed a complete turnaround,’ she said.
Deputy Kovacs questioned why many of the objections to her proposition had not been expressed when previous proposals to remove tax on period products were discussed.
Deputy Gorst highlighted measures already taken by the Council of Ministers since the government was formed in July, with the recent mini-budget putting money back in Islanders’ pockets – he said – to the tune of £14 million this year, and £30m in 2023.
Deputy Gorst also expressed doubt about how much of the GST removal would be passed onto customers, citing figures that suggested UK retailers had failed to pass on an estimated 80% of the sums involved.
The proposition would require GST on food to be removed by 1 January 2024 at the latest – the Treasury Minister said that meeting this deadline would distract officials in his department from other tasks.
Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf said that targeted benefits and support were the best way to tackle food poverty, rather then removing GST on food.
He described the GST tactic as a ‘weak measure’ which he said would cost around £10m every year, and said he wasn’t surprised that the proposal had found support on social media.
He said: ‘It’s typical of the simplistic approach to complex issues on social media – but if you asked whether people would be prepared to pay an extra 1% on GST to fund this measure, you might get a different answer.’
The Dean of Jersey, the Very Rev Mike Keirle, made a rare speech – he said he did not wish to give a view on a political matter, but called on the government to continue looking at measures to support those Islanders who were struggling with the cost of living.