§ 67. Mr. Worthington
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the progress being made to harmonise business rating practices between Scotland and England and Wales.
§ Mr. Lang
We are making good progress towards implementing our declared objective of harmonising business rates between Scotland and England and Wales. The problem is not new, but we are the first Government to have taken action to tackle it. Our objective is one which can only be achieved by stages, but a number of steps have already been taken that will bring us closer to harmony within the next two years. Further steps are under detailed consideration to carry that work further, and we have always made it clear that some of the mechanics of the later steps towards harmonisation will have to await the outcome of earlier ones. Our purpose, to achieve at the earliest opportunity fairness for Scottish businesses and better protection from the depredations of high-spending local councils, has never wavered.