Amendment 1

Part of Non-Domestic Rating (Lists) (No. 2) Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 1st March 2021.

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Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Housing) 3:45 pm, 1st March 2021

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Stunell, rightly highlighted the support the Government have given, which is very welcome. I am very happy to acknowledge that. It has been vital to ensure that businesses have survived through this.

The fundamental question is the unfairness of the present system of business rates. If that is not sorted out, we are going to see the demise of the high street accelerate, and we have to address that at some point. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, for his support. As he said, we must address the elephant in the room. As the noble Lord highlighted, it is the twin problem of taxing fairly online retailers—and I wish all online retailers success—to raise revenue from them and the amount of revenue raised from businesses on the high street so that they are taxed fairly as well. Getting that balance right is the issue and that can no longer be ignored.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, for indicating that he would support me if I divided the House. I am often very happy to divide the House, but I have decided that, this time, it is probably not the best thing to do, so I shall not do so—I know the Minister will be very disappointed by that.

The Government must reflect on this. Although it is disappointing that these proposals will not be taken forward, I think that the Government are going to have to do every single thing in my amendment. If they do not do that, they cannot arm themselves with the information they need to take decisions in future Bills and policy, and the crisis will become a complete nightmare on our high streets.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, also highlighted the unfairness between online and the high street, and she is right. The risk is that when we return to anything like a normal situation it will not be normal because it will have gone too far and people will not return in numbers to our high streets. I have always supported local shops where I live. I am looking forward to 12 April. I am desperate for a haircut, so I am looking forward to the 12th very much. I am going to my barber straightaway to get it done. It is vital that we support our high streets.

I am very happy to acknowledge the support the Government have given; I mentioned that earlier. It was very welcome and has kept many businesses afloat. It is just a shame that we are not going to address these issues here. I have said before that all the points I have raised will have to be addressed by government because we are going to have to look at the bigger, wider points about what we want from our high streets and how we raise revenue from our high streets and from online so that we can pay for the services we all want. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.