HC Deb 15 May 1968 vol 764 cc1219-20
45. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that several Glasgow commercial establishments have closed down because of the high burden of rates; and if he will take steps to reduce the rates burden on commercial premises.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Norman Buchan)

I am aware of some commercial establishments in Glasgow have closed, but not that increased local rates have been the only reason for these closures.

The incidence of rates on commercial premises raises complex issues, on which my right hon. Friend is not yet ready to make a statement.

Mr. Taylor

Would not the Minister agree that it is rather ridiculous that Lewis's, in Argyll Street, Glasgow, should pay twice as much in rates per square foot as Selfridge's, in Oxford Street, London, and that Glen's Warehouse, in Ingram Street, Glasgow, is now paying twice as much in rates as 10 years ago? Does the Under-Secretary agree that the problem of empty shops in Glasgow is urgent and serious? Will he consider action before the revaluation of 1971?

Mr. Buchan

We are looking at the whole question, but there are other arguments about the reasons for these increases. It has been argued that there is over-restrictive ownership and that there are, perhaps, too many stores in the centre of Glasgow.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

Would not my hon. Friend agree that most fair-minded experts in valuation of commercial properties recognise that Glasgow is over-stored and that, particularly, the House of Fraser has brought this problem on its head by leasing properties from insurance companies at enhanced rents?

Mr. Stodart

Will the hon. Gentleman agree that this is not the only reason, but it is a very major reason, and will he try to drop the apparent air of equanimity with which he views this disturbing trend?

Mr. Buchan

There was no air of equanimity. I said that we are considering it and wish to identify the areas where the average increase is highest, and so on. We take all the factors into consideration. We are not going to jump at an easy answer on this matter simply through panic pressure from hon. Members opposite.