§ Rev. William McCrea
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will introduce a relief scheme to assist non-domestic ratepayers whose bills will be increased following revaluation. 
§ Sir John Wheeler
The Government intend to assist small businesses which have experienced relatively large increases in rateable value. To qualify for relief, a business will have to meet two criteria. First, the net annual value of the property shown in the valuation list on 1 April 1997 must not exceed £10,000. Secondly, the rate bill which would be levied on the property in each of the three years following revaluation must, before any rate relief is applied, be at least 25 per cent. higher than it would have been in that year—the base year—if the revaluation had not taken place.
Relief will be available during the three years 1997–98, 1998–99 and 1999–2000. The amount of relief allowed in any individual case will be based on the difference between the rate bill which is actually received by the ratepayer and an amount 25 per cent. or more above the base year amount—the revaluation effect. The full revaluation effect will be abated in the first year of the scheme, two thirds in the second year and one third in the third year. The full rate will be payable in the fourth year after the revaluation.
Rate accounts for 1997–98 will be adjusted before issue to reflect any relief to which ratepayers are entitled. No ratepayer will need to apply for relief under the scheme.