Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:39 pm on 16th July 2020.

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Photo of Robert Largan Robert Largan Conservative, High Peak 1:39 pm, 16th July 2020

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Steve Double, who made an excellent speech and who has done so much to make this change happen. It was also a pleasure to listen to the enthusiastic speech of Thangam Debbonaire; I really enjoyed listening to it. She made some brilliant points, particularly on maps and public information about where toilet facilities are, which is often overlooked.

This is an incredibly welcome Bill that I have long campaigned for. As has been said by other hon. Members, it is not the most exciting or glamorous piece of legislation, but it will make a real, tangible difference to people’s lives. When I first started talking about the need to improve public toilet facilities in Buxton a couple of years ago, it was a source of amusement to many people locally. A particularly charming Labour activist gave me the new nickname Mr Toilet Flusher—not the most amusing of the nicknames that they have given me over the years. Although that might have been quite funny to the High Peak Labour party, public toilet facilities are no laughing matter to many people with hidden disabilities and medical conditions, pregnant women, the elderly and those suffering from conditions such as prostate cancer, so the Bill is an important step forward.

Even before the global pandemic, high streets were struggling badly. We need to do more to make it easier and more enjoyable for people to come and shop in our town centres and support our fantastic local businesses, which involves making it easier to park and get in by public transport or by cycling. It is also important to maintain the things that make our high streets unique and such enjoyable places to come to. At the same time, it means making sure that there are proper public toilet facilities.

The Bill is a small step, but giving 100% business rate relief to public toilets will make a huge difference, as has already been said, particularly to local councils, and will make it that bit easier to provide public toilet facilities. It is a positive move that will be a boost for high streets across High Peak in places such as Buxton, New Mills, Whaley Bridge, Glossop and Chapel-en-le-Frith.

I very much welcome the Bill, but it should not be the end of the conversation. We need to talk an awful lot more about the issue, we need to end the taboos around public toilet facilities, and we need to do more to help our high streets, particularly when it comes to supporting future high street fund bids—an excellent one has been submitted for Buxton.