Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown contributions to the Non-Domestic Rating (Nursery Grounds) Act 2018

Tue 10th July 2018 Non-Domestic Rating (Nursery Grounds) Bill (Commons Chamber)
3rd reading: House of Commons
Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Legislative Grand Committee: House of Commons
7 interactions (91 words)

Non-Domestic Rating (Nursery Grounds) Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
(Legislative Grand Committee: House of Commons)
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Excerpts
Tuesday 10th July 2018

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Steve Double Portrait Steve Double - Hansard
10 Jul 2018, 1:06 p.m.

I agree that it is vital to support those important businesses in our rural communities. If the jobs that they provide were lost, it would be difficult to replace them.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con) - Hansard
10 Jul 2018, 1:06 p.m.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Bill is important for farmers wanting to intensify their businesses, because it will put it beyond doubt that any nursery operation will come under the scope of the exemption?

Steve Double Portrait Steve Double - Hansard
10 Jul 2018, 1:08 p.m.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that good point. We should do all that we can to support our farmers who want to diversify and expand their operations to include growing plants in greenhouses and so on, and they should be able to do so with confidence and in the knowledge that they will not suddenly incur a business rates bill. It is therefore correct that we introduce clarity and put right the wrong that the court case created. As I said, I do not believe that that wrong was ever the intention of Parliament or the Government, and we should provide the sector with confidence that horticultural buildings and nurseries will continue to attract the agricultural exemption that they should rightly have.

I acknowledge the role played by the National Farmers Union in bringing the matter to my attention and lobbying on this issue. It has spoken up for its members, ensuring that their voices have been heard. I thank the Minister and the former Local Government Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones), for listening carefully to the arguments, agreeing to take this measure and ensuring that the matter is corrected. I welcome the Bill and trust that it will pass unopposed with wholehearted support from across the House so that it can reach the statute book as quickly as possible to support this sector.

Break in Debate

Mr Marcus Jones Portrait Mr Jones - Hansard
10 Jul 2018, 1:14 p.m.

My hon. Friend makes an extremely important and pertinent point. The agricultural industry is very different from many other industries in this country. This country needs to be as self-sufficient as possible in food production, and we also need to consider that it is often difficult for producers in the industry to recover their costs. For example, there has been a perennial challenge for milk producers, which have not been able to realise even the cost of production. That is why organisations such as the NFU are extremely important in bringing such issues to the fore so that we maintain our food security.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown - Hansard
10 Jul 2018, 1:15 p.m.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, with Brexit, it will be ever more important that this type of horticultural industry is as competitive as possible? Countries such as Holland and Italy are increasingly competing with our industry, and it is much better to grow food here for phytosanitary, employment and all sorts of other reasons.

Mr Marcus Jones Portrait Mr Jones - Hansard
10 Jul 2018, 1:16 p.m.

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. Again he is absolutely right that, wherever we can, we should be producing food in this country for those reasons.

Importantly, clause 1 is a retrospective measure. Such measures are often not retrospective, but it is important that the Bill is being implemented retrospectively, because a number of growers have already been caught by the provisions of the Court of Appeal decision and, as a consequence, have seen their business costs rise significantly. I have mentioned the challenges that agricultural producers often face, and those challenges are compounded when growers are retrospectively asked for an amount of money that they did not anticipate they would need to build into their business costs.

In this case, a number of growers will have already sold their produce and therefore will not have factored this into their price, if they were able to do so. The decision will put a significant strain on the businesses in question, so I am pleased the Bill is being applied retrospectively and that businesses that have already been caught by the Court of Appeal decision will be refunded any business rates they have paid.