HL Deb 19 March 2001 vol 623 cc1155-6

2.53 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they plan to extend mandatory rate relief to village and rural public houses on the same basis as village post offices and stores.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty)

My Lords, the Government have today presented a Bill in the Commons to provide 50 per cent mandatory rate relief to all village food shops. They have also announced that they intend to extend this relief, by means of secondary legislation, to sole village pubs and petrol filling stations. The mandatory relief will be available to food shops with rateable values up to £6,000, the same as that currently available to sole post offices and general stores. It will be available to sole village pubs and petrol filling stations with rateable values up to £9,000. In order to assist farmers to diversify, the Bill also provides 50 per cent mandatory rate relief for five years for new small-scale non-agricultural enterprises on farms.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that very helpful and welcome Answer. I seem to be timing my questions rather well this month. Is it true that the Bill removes the proposed restrictions on the kind of pub that will receive relief, so that it will be available to all rural pubs no matter who owns them or whether they have particular resources which make them a cultural centre? A pub is a pub, is a pub—and they are all worth supporting.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, first, I congratulate the noble Lord on his knowledge of pubs—although I suspect that most British pubs like to differentiate themselves a little from each other. As regards the changes, we have not pursued the definition "singly owned" in the Green Paper; in order to qualify, however, a pub must be the sole pub in the community.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, will my noble friend give an assurance that the rate relief will be funded wholly by the Government and will not fall on local authorities?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, the mandatory rate relief to which I have referred will be fully funded. Under the existing scheme and under the scheme that is proposed, local authorities have further abilities to top up the funding to 100 per cent relief. In that situation the Government would fund 75 per cent of the top-up or discretionary relief.

Lord Tanlaw

My Lords, are the Government doing more to help farmers with diversification through access to broadband data transmission? ADSL will not be available in country areas for some time. I understand that there is a restriction on having two receiver dishes. Will the legislation be changed to allow a second dish to be installed so that farmers can diversify as a result of having access to broadband data transmission?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, the Government have in train a full strategy on the extension of broadband facilities which will include provision in rural areas. The number of dishes will be determined on the basis of local planning decisions. If the noble Lord is suggesting that a separate dish would be necessary for the part of a business that would be diversified, the particular circumstance would need to be taken into account. There is no primary legislation covering such matters.

Lord Borrie

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, if the measures for mandatory rate relief for local food stores and petrol stations are to succeed, it is equally important to tighten up on planning permissions for new supermarket developments?

Lord Whitty

Yes, my Lords. In our new planning guidance we have clearly indicated to local authorities that we shall look hard and with great robustness at any proposals for out-of-town supermarket centres.

Lord Elton

My Lords, will the new provisions referred to by the Minister in his original Answer apply in Scotland; or is this a devolved matter?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, it is a devolved matter in Scotland. These provisions will apply to England and Wales.