Mr Patrick Boyle
Dear Acting Governor
Following your recent statements on the VAT issue I thought it would be useful if I made the following points.
I am glad that you appreciate our desire to assist the Government in presenting a balanced view of the merits and demerits of VAT and for that matter, the existing system based on tariff duties.
I am grateful to you for reeling off a list of the meetings that have been organized to discuss how VAT was going to be implemented. It illustrates the central problem that there was no consultation as to whether VAT should be implemented. Indeed in the vast majority of those meetings the overall consensus was that there was inadequate information and that it was inappropriate to implement VAT at this time.
The consequence was that since it was treated as a foregone conclusion, the general public largely abstained from attending because your spokesmen were clearly not willing to listen to them anyway. The result was that almost all your meetings had very few attendees. There are plenty of illustrations of this recorded on tape and television.
I venture to warrant to you that you would have had more attendees at the TCIBC VAT evening you have declined to attend, than you managed to achieve in the entirety of your programme.
The overwhelming frustration that we and the 3000 people that signed our petition, not to mention the 300 businesses that signed the letter to you, feel is that you are hell bent on pre empting the authority of a democratically elected government.
The way the VAT bill was strong-armed through the Advisory Council and then the extraordinary session in the consultative forum, where the business community was labelled as “squealing pigs” and the ordinary people of mostly Provo that had signed the petition were apparently condemned as "clueless" was unfortunate to say the very least.
The process itself is a testament to the lack of adherence to principles of good governance. These were shamelessly jettisoned in the Interim Government's mad rush to try to get the VAT measures into legislation. The Advisory Council had none of their independent members there when it discussed the so called Bill. It was told by the Attorney General that the Bill they had been given reflected the terms of the White Paper but this was not true. What was true is that the government’s VAT team was still working on the VAT bill as it was going through both the Advisory Council and the Consultative Forum. As a consequence neither the Advisory Council nor the Consultative forum either "approved" or "passed" the final Bill because additional changes were subsequently made and so far have not been submitted for their review.
This breach of due process must be regarded as a stain on the reputation of the Interim Government and one that it will live with if it does not act to remedy this omission. If it is really the intention of the Interim Government to force this through, then at the very least as a matter of good governance and constitutional rectitude, the finalised VAT bill needs to be resubmitted to both the Advisory Council and the Consultative Forum. On this occasion appropriate time should be made available for the respective members to read and digest the measures before having to advise the Governor.
What is clear is that your attempt to have an informative discussion with the people of these islands has been an outright failure as even the chairperson of the Consultative Forum herself and a number of others were last week prepared to admit. In those circumstances I am very sorry that you do not feel able to take part in the VAT evening. I nevertheless hope that you will not try to rush the VAT bill into law before we conduct our meeting and in particular before the Westminster Foundation Members arrive next week.
At the Forum Meeting, which I am sorry to say you did not attend, the TCIBC urged the Members of the Forum to advise that the issue of VAT should be passed on to a Government with a democratic mandate. This is scheduled to happen in less than 16 weeks. No reasons were tendered for not doing so. Even at this late stage we would be happy to hear the reasons that are driving the Interim Government to rush the VAT Bill onto the Statute Book. VAT is not being relied upon for more money. It beggars belief that this administration is so flagrantly trying to usurp and pre-empt the functions of the upcoming government elect.