It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Cherilyn Mackrory. I congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) and for North Cornwall (Scott Mann) on their good work in bringing about the Bill.
I am pleased to speak in the debate on the Bill, which sees the Government recognising the vital role that public lavatories play in our communities. Town centres, visitor attractions and local hubs rely on good access to those facilities. My constituency relies heavily on tourism and attracts people from wide and far. Whether they come to visit the beautiful spa town of Ilkley or the home of the Brontë sisters in Haworth, or to take a ride on our famous heritage railway line, the Keighley and Worth Valley railway, access to public toilets is vital. It is a must.
People’s ability to work, shop and enjoy their leisure time depends on appropriate toilet facilities being available. Of course, such access is important for those with particular health needs, as well as individuals who work in emergency services, refuse collectors and taxi and delivery drivers, who all work from no fixed location. Public toilets are a necessity and more widely, adequate lavatory provision helps with public health and improves the local environment, particularly through street cleanliness and disease control.
Given how vital those facilities are, it is understandable that there has been public concern for many years, as my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay said, that many of them have unfortunately closed. Closures have happened across my constituency, and I am sure that applies to other Members’ constituencies too. It is understandable when the facilities are no longer suitable or required, but reduction in overall coverage is undoubtedly an inconvenience to the public.
The Bill is therefore welcome and I am pleased that this Conservative Government are taking action to reduce the overhead costs of public toilets, which will make it easier to keep them open and help guarantee their future for much longer. A review of the whole business rate structure is long overdue, but for these vital facilities, I am glad that the Bill is working its way through the House. It is a small but vital measure.
The Bill is a significant step, which introduces 100% relief for our public lavatories—important financial assistance from central Government to those that provide the facilities, such as Bradford Council or the many parish councils across my constituency. I want our public toilets in Keighley and Ilkley to remain open and I would love to see more open across my patch so that visitors, residents and those working in my constituency from no fixed location can still have access to those facilities. The Bill provides that support and helps ensure that much-needed facilities can remain in place.