It really has got pasty joke!

NOW let me get this straight.

Following the government’s change of heart, if I buy a pasty that is cooling naturally, I will not be charged VAT on it.

However, if I opt for one being kept warm, or require it to be reheated in a microwave, another 20 per cent will be added to the bill.

It would appear therefore, the secret to a hot, inexpensive snack is all in the timing.

If I can arrive at the bakery just as the latest batch has been removed from the oven, my VAT-free pasty will actually be hotter than my VAT-added one – and a few bob cheaper.

Far be it from me to make George Osborne’s life even more complicated, but I may have spotted a loophole which could justifiably be exploited by purveyors of fish and chips.

At the moment, they are required to charge VAT on everything they sell, but why, if my cod is cooked to order and is in the process of cooling naturally while being transported straight from fryer to wrapping-paper, should the Exchequer be entitled to wrench another 20 per cent from my tired old wallet?

When it comes to tax, surely, my naturally-cooling piece of fish is no different to my naturally-cooling pasty?

Perhaps George and the lads at the Treasury will have another re-think and come up with a compromise in which VAT is charged on chips, but not fish.

If not, the no-win no-fee industry may be alerted to another potential windfall, and it won’t be long before their advertisements start turning up every day during The Jeremy Kyle Show.

The fragrant Carol Vorderman will be recruited to front a campaign in which punters who think they’ve been ripped off at the local chippie will be urged to reclaim what is rightfully theirs.

“Were you surprised to be charged VAT on your haddock? Did you pay more for your chicken balti pie than you expected?

“Then contact us at UveBeenBattered right now. We have years of experience in making ourselves rich while pursuing frivolous litigation on behalf of opportunists like you.

“And don’t forget – if your response to being charged VAT was to look round quickly in utter amazement, you may be able to claim for whiplash as well.”

TONY BLAIR had that familiar self-satisfied grin on his face as he left the Leveson Inquiry – and no wonder.

He had been given a remarkably undemanding ride by his lordship, and the show’s resident cynic, Robert Jay QC.

Both men trod softly throughout their conversation (it hardly qualified as an interrogation), apparently anxious not to bruise Blair’s ego or make any little dents in his thin carapace of self-composure.

Indeed, at one point Leveson actually went to great lengths to rephrase a couple of Blair’s answers, as if eager to ensure they were recorded for posterity in as favourable a light as possible.

All in all, it was one of the more worrying days at the Royal Courts of Justice.