Business Rates

Part of Delegated Legislation – in the House of Commons at 4:46 pm on 2nd April 2019.

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Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Conservative, The Cotswolds 4:46 pm, 2nd April 2019

I understand that there are two reasons. The first is that the Valuation Office Agency can get away with saying that an ATM on the outside of the building is, in the jargon, a different hereditament from the main building on which it sits. The second argument that is given in the official explanation is that ATMs are often not run by the same company as the building on which they sit, and that as it is a different company, it can be rated as such. Those are the official explanations, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister, who is far more expert in these matters than I am, will be able to give us a better one.

Returning to the £51,000 and the question of discretionary relief as opposed to allowances, the Minister knows that this is the core of my speech. It was the core of my speech last October, and it is the core of my speech today. This £51,000 is still a discretionary relief. While the majority of local councils have now pledged to provide the resources for their local businesses to benefit from this change, there are some that, regrettably, have not been forthcoming with their support of this measure, either by delaying their decision to implement it or by putting systems in place that require businesses to apply for the relief, firmly putting the onus on businesses to take time out from their day job to claim back money that is rightfully theirs. That means that businesses in those areas are being disadvantaged.

Of course this still does not resolve the complexity, and I believe that simplicity is always the key. We all know that small businesses are under increasing and unfair pressure from out-of-town retail parks and online retailers, and I am sure that Members here tonight will have lots of examples of that. For example, for every £1 in business rates that our small high street operators are taxed, the big online and out-of-town retailers pay significantly less, averaging around 16p. We can immediately see the competitive disadvantage for high street retailers, compared with the large out-of-town retailers and big online organisations.