This morning the BBC reveal texts between the PM and James Dyson, in which Boris promised to “fix” a tax issue to prevent Dyson’s employees having to pay extra if they came here to make Covid ventilators during what was a national emergency. The Treasury changed the rules to mean any days worked by foreign employees towards the national Covid effort wouldn’t be counted by HMRC between March and June 2020. Only an hysterical partisan would take issue with this, here’s Labour’s line this morning;
“These are jaw-dropping revelations. Boris Johnson is now front and centre of the biggest lobbying scandal in a generation, and Tory sleaze has reached the heart of Downing Street.”
A gigantic volte-face given Labour repeatedly praised the ventilator response – a response the tax changes aimed to bolster. The changes were openly put to parliament and applied to non-tax-resident doctors and engineers who would otherwise have had negative tax implications for helping in the fight against Covid. VAT and customs duties on vital medical equipment were also waived. In April 2020, Rachel Reeves said the government needed to “strain every sinew and utilise untapped resources in UK manufacturing, to deliver essential equipment to frontline workers”. A week later, Starmer praised everyone involved in the effort to get ventilators:
The Ventilator Challenge is an example of how UK manufacturers, a world class workforce and @unitetheunion have come together to provide our NHS with the vital equipment it urgently needs. Well done to everyone involved. https://t.co/7u9vhQrDVc— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) March 30, 2020
Just last month, Anneliese Dodds admitted the government had worked with manufacturers to deliver the “seemingly impossible, to record time” on ventilator production. Something their holier-than-thou anti-‘crony’ position would have prevented.
This latest accusation of sleaze is a misstep by Labour. As Tony Blair told Today this morning, “I find it hard to get worked up about this… there’s got to be a certain degree of understanding.”
Most people will think it was good of Dyson to put up £20 million and hundreds of his staff on to the project at short notice and no cost to the taxpayer. They will think it fair that those who came to our aid were not punished by the taxman for helping. There are some genuine questions about cronyism to be answered when it comes to the supply of PPE, some of which may well be answered with criminal charges. If Labour starts making weak accusations that don’t stack up they will start sounding like the boy who cried wolf…