Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:52 pm on 16th July 2020.

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Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Conservative, North West Durham 1:52 pm, 16th July 2020

I declare an interest as the co-chair, along with my hon. Friend Cherilyn Mackrory, of the all-party parliamentary group on local democracy, which has been behind a lot of the campaigning on this matter.

Just to reassure those on the Government Front Bench, who seem fearful that this might not be a piece of legislation that is talked about in 100 years’ time, when I questioned the Leader of the House about it last week and asked when the decision was coming forward, he mentioned that the taxation of toilets had been introduced by the Emperor Vespasian 2,000 years ago, so I think those on the Front Bench today are making a mark in history.

I particularly pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) and for North Cornwall (Scott Mann), who brought this matter to the public’s attention many years ago and have been campaigning on it ever since. I am particularly delighted, as I think the Bill will be welcome news to Justin and the team at the National Association of Local Councils, who have been campaigning on this issue for a long time. I particularly welcome the Government’s announcement that the relief will be backdated to April this year.

In a recent conversation with town and parish councils, including St Austell Town Council, they mentioned the extra costs they have had during the covid crisis, providing support for their communities, of about £50 million. So the fact that £8 million a year will be going to help those councils and will be backdated will be really helpful.

Members from all parts of the House have already made clear the points that I would like to make about how the Bill helps people with hidden disabilities and particularly helps women and girls and those with children. If someone is trying to find somewhere to change them or something like that, toilets are useful facilities to have at hand.

It is a real benefit to our local authorities. Wolsingham, in my constituency, spends between 1% and 2% of its annual budget just on rates for public loos. I know how important the issue is for that local authority and for those in other tourist areas, and I know just how vital it is for the Cornish MPs who have been campaigning on it as well. To flag up the comments made by my hon. Friend Robbie Moore, the financial impact of the Bill will really benefit local authorities. This issue has been a burden on them for far too long, and it is right that we are now making that change.

I also flag up the importance of regional news. My local regional broadcaster in the north-east, Richard Moss, who is from the political team there, came out and did an interview with me on this very subject when I became co-chairman with my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth. I give another shout out to that team, who are under threat at the moment from the BBC centrally. Campaigning local MPs can make a difference, and those regional news channels are very important in order for us to highlight the campaigns that we are pushing.

I thank Front Benchers very much for introducing the Bill. I know that it is just before the summer, but it is a great thing to get over the line now. I really hope that by reducing the cost of public toilets we will be able to see more open across the country in the years ahead.