Business Rate Supplements Bill
John Healey (Minister of State (Local Government), Department for Communities and Local Government; Wentworth, Labour)
Essentially, the amendments would make a business rate supplement an option for London only, removing the possibility for other local authorities in England and Wales to choose to fund a project through a business rate supplement. It is precisely the sort of special treatment that we cannot accept as a Labour Government, and especially as a party that is concerned about the whole country. We are concerned about jobs, investment and the long-term business success of all parts of the country, not only London.
As I have tried to explain to the Committee, we do not accept the arguments made this morning that London is different and should be treated differently in the Bill, or that Crossrail is different. It is the most developed example of a project for which a business rate supplement is appropriate. It is an exemplar, rather than an exception, and from it we can draw good lessons for the way in which a BRS could and should work in other areas.
During our evidence sessions, I was struck by the fact that both business and local government representatives accepted the principle that a BRS should be available across the country, not only in London, despite their concerns about details such as balloting. There is a lot to gain from giving local authorities greater ability to raise investment for local economies, particularly in the way that we require them to do so: in consultation and in partnership with business. The potential would be lost if the amendments were accepted. I hope that the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst will not insist on pressing them, but if he does, I will ask my hon. Friends to resist.