The ludicrous law governing VAT was summed up by Lord Hoffman, last year: "The supply of food is zero rated for VAT. There are exceptions. One is confectionery, but there is an exception to that exception: cakes or biscuits. But there is an exception to that exception to the exception: biscuits covered with chocolate." So began M&S's tortuous route to the European Court of Justice:

1973: VAT is introduced to the UK and M&S pays full rate on its tea cakes

1994: M&S challenges the definition of its tea cakes, and wins, proving it had overpaid on VAT from 1973 to 1994

1995: M&S claims a repayment of £3.5m, which is refused. M&S appeals, the Commission finds that 90% of the tax had been passed to consumers so 10% is due back

1996: M&S appeals the 'passing on' defence, loses, and the amount repayable is confirmed at £350K. M&S appeals

1997: M&S claim is also subject to a three-year cap, reduced from £350,000 to £88,000. M&S appeals

1999: First Court of Appeal dismisses appeals

2003: An appeal to the second Court of Appeal results in parts of the first Court of Appeal's judgement being reopened

2005: The House of Lords refers the case to the European Court of Justice

2006: ECJ is issued with five questions. The answers should put an end to the case