MP challenges government on air ambulance fuel payments

Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey challenged the Government in a Commons debate on the return of VAT on air ambulance fuel payments.

Speaking today, he told MPs: “We are asking for a small contribution that will be a big boost to the efforts of those who support and keep our air ambulances flying across the country.”

John Healey was one of the main signatories to an Early Day Motion in February this year, which asked for the Government to refund to air ambulances all the VAT they pay on fuel.

Since then more than 150,000 people have showed their support by signing a petition.

During the debate MPs put forward a motion – which was agreed to – asking the Government to review the situation and consider grants to reimburse VAT costs.

Describing the YAA as “the airborne wing of the Prime Minister’s big society”, Mr Healey said: “It is funded by the public to provide a vital emergency service for the public across our county.

“Since the debate started, I reckon that our fundraisers in Yorkshire will have had to raise at least £300 as a contribution towards keeping our two helicopters and our service going. That is a total of more than £7,000 a day or £2.65million a year.

“They do this because they understand, like we do, how vital this emergency service is and how essential it is in many parts of our county that patients requiring such help can be at their nearest hospital within 10 minutes.

“It flies more than 1,000 missions each year, which is a unique and essential service, of interest and concern to us all.”

He concluded: “We are asking simply for a review to look at the fairness of the situation and the case for making a small public contribution to the voluntary efforts of those who keep our air ambulances flying.”

The Yorkshire Air Ambulance Charity must raise £7,200 per day to keep both of the county’s air ambulances maintained and in the air.

Last year the Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA) purchased around 170,000 litres of fuel and incurred £5,799.06 in VAT costs.

The YAA is one of 20 air ambulance independent charities in the UK providing a service to five million people across Yorkshire. They operate two helicopters in the region, in North Yorkshire at Leeds Bradford International Airport.

They attend road traffic collisions, hospital transfers and other medical emergencies where a road ambulance would have difficulty attending quickly enough.

Special provision is made in the EU VAT Directive for the zero-rating of fuel for use by the Lifeboat Service, but no provision is made for the air ambulance services.

Paul Gowland, of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, said: “We are constantly striving to raise the vital finds required to keep the Yorkshire Air Ambulances in the air and operational, therefore any reimbursements or donations would be very greatly received by the charity.”