Business Rates

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 7th December 2020.

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Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP 3:15 pm, 7th December 2020

T2. Mr Beggs asked the Minister for Communities, given that retail forms an important social and community space and element in our town centres, albeit that all retailers, whether multinational or local independents, are struggling with the shift to online shopping, what action she has taken to contact the Minister of Finance to achieve a long-term reduction in the rates that are charged so that more realistic rents will be charged, with more businesses able to survive and provide a service to the community. (AQT 792/17-22)

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I have not had a conversation with the Finance Minister about the long-term trajectory of rates. We are more focused on, first, the fact that there has been rates relief. We have had his support and the support of all of our Executive colleagues, including your colleague, for the revitalisation fund, which gets money out to help, in particular, small and local businesses. I am happy to copy the section from Hansard containing your question to Conor Murphy.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I thank the Minister for her response. Considerable pressure will be ongoing beyond the COVID period, and that is why I am asking the question. Similarly, has the Minister made contact, or in conjunction with the Finance Minister made contact, with the Chancellor so that online large retailers such as Amazon pay fair taxation and are unable to continue to shift their profits offshore and use complex tax avoidance methods, leaving local retailers at a disadvantage?

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I would not ever contact the British Chancellor, because the normal protocol is that it goes through the Finance Minister. I have absolutely no doubt that the matter of supporting our local businesses has been raised. The issue of big global companies coming here and paying very little tax is one that has been with us for a long time, and I agree with the Member. I do not think that they pay their fair share. In fact, there have been court battles, which are probably still ongoing, around some of those big names. They are not paying their fair share. Their employees are, but, as companies, they are not, and that is not right.