HC Deb 06 November 2003 vol 412 cc919-20
5. Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford)

What recent representations her Department has made to HM Treasury concerning the impact of stamp duty land tax on small businesses. [136678]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Nigel Griffiths)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry made representations to the Treasury concerning the potential impact of the proposed changes on businesses. She was pleased that the change announced on 20 October will assist small and medium-sized enterprises and business start-ups, and she welcomed the Chancellor's decision to more than double exemption for businesses with a net present value of less than £150,000.

Mr. Prisk

The Minister knows that businesses small and large remain bitterly opposed to the fourfold increase in tax on their leases. Is he also aware that business feels strongly that that will distort the leasehold market and restrain small business investment? Would he, as the Minister for Small Business and Enterprise, agree to meet a small delegation of businesses so that they can express their concerns on a matter that may well distort the leasehold market for small business right across the country?

Nigel Griffiths

I do not accept that. Almost two thirds of commercial leases signed by small businesses will be exempt. Previously, in most cases, stamp duty was paid, if at all, on 2 per cent. of one year's rent. Now the first £150,000 is exempt, and thereafter the rate is 1 per cent. The entire House should welcome this measure to close a tax loophole. I regularly meet the key federations and organisations representing small businesses, and I shall be happy to discuss the matter with them.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Is my hon. Friend aware of the sheer difficulty experienced by those who apply for grants? Would he contact the Association of Marine Scientific Industries, which is particularly concerned about Natural Environment Research Council applications?

Nigel Griffiths

I am happy to respond in writing to my hon. Friend.