Yes, and I celebrate that, because it minimises the time for the market to be considerably different at the point on which the revaluations are based. A one-year tone date—which was recommended by the Barclay review—was chosen precisely to minimise the shocks. We should therefore be proud to be able to deliver that in this country.
The equivalent delay in England was described by Luke Hall, the UK local government minister, who I believe is a Conservative, as “important” and “common sense”. Similarly, Labour MP Kate Hollern said that it is
“a common-sense response to the virus”.—[
20 September 2020; vol 681, c 371.]
The chamber should know that there is no political or financial benefit from the delay. On the contrary, annulling the order would ensure that the system would revert to a 2022 revaluation with a tone date of 1 April 2020, increasing uncertainty for business, locking them into new revaluations that likely would not reflect the full impact of the pandemic and risking the Government’s ability to fund a programme of business support because of the risk to public finances.
Liam Kerr said that we should reflect market conditions. Information as at 1 April 2020 would not reflect market conditions, and the big fear and concern—based on the evidence that we have received—is that information as at April 2021 would not reflect market conditions either.
As Sarah Boyack rightly said, the business community agreed universally that the status quo is not an option, and annulling the order would force us back to the status quo.
Scottish businesses also agree overwhelmingly that their top priority is to have certainty about the future of reliefs. That discussion should be held in advance of next year’s budget and is different from a discussion about locking businesses into revaluation values.
In his statement last week, the chancellor systematically failed to provide the devolved Administrations with any clarity about the future of non-domestic rates reliefs. Instead of posturing over the date of the revaluation, we should unite to call on the chancellor to provide certainty now, rather than making us wait until March, only a month before the beginning of the next financial year.
The order is based on an understanding of the risks to businesses. That is, in turn, based on the most robust and verifiable evidence and data that we have. It is the same “common-sense” approach adopted in Wales under Labour and in England under the Conservatives. I call on Parliament not to agree to the proposal to annul—not for the sake of Government, but for the sake of businesses in every constituency, which have been through the most challenging of years.