HC Deb 15 March 1995 vol 256 cc885-6
2. Mr. Cohen

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the increase in business rates in Waltham Forest and Redbridge following the recent revaluation.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Robert B. Jones)

Rateable values in Redbridge and Waltham Forest have increased 28 per cent. and 25 per cent. respectively. Transitional arrangements will restrict the average increase in bills in the next financial year to 7 per cent. in both districts.

Mr. Cohen

The Minister referred to the huge increases in business rateable values in those districts under the current revaluation, whereas those for the rest of London have fallen. Why is my part of east London singled out for unfair treatment? Businesses are already struggling to survive the recession, without having an added unjust burden. Now that the Minister is in control of business rates, why does he not personally intervene to stop my local firms being driven to the wall?

Mr. Jones

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, valuations are independently made by valuation offices. Of course he is right to say that inner-London rateable values have fallen. They have risen in outer London, but not as much as in Waltham Forest and Redbridge. I strongly suggest that the hon. Gentleman and his constituents contact the local valuation office and provide evidence to challenge any valuation thought to be inaccurate.

Mr. Spring

Does my hon. Friend agree that a nationwide uniform business rate is greatly to the advantage of businesses? Does he recall the days when high business rates imposed by Labour authorities drove firms into bankruptcy and pushed many people out of jobs?

Mr. Jones

My hon. Friend is correct. Nationwide, the Government are taking no more in real terms from businesses than in the previous year, because we are committed to increasing the take only in line with inflation. In the old days, some local authorities used to raid businesses to finance grandiose schemes, which was deplorable. They were, of course, Labour authorities.

Mr. Tony Lloyd

Is it not a fact that businesses increasingly know that it is this loony right Government who are putting up business costs? Is it not true that, in places such as Waltham Forest, Redbridge and the north of England, businesses blame the Government for increasing their costs, and that when firms go to the wall the Government are responsible? Why does the Minister not apologise for the nationalisation of the business rate?

Mr. Jones

Fortunately, businesses are a great deal more sensible than the hon. Gentleman and they know full well that what the Government are taking is restricted to level terms finance. We have to face the fact that valuations will vary from area to area. An appeals system is built in so that people can challenge the rateable values that have been attributed to their businesses.