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Local Produce

Volume 406: debated on Thursday 12 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will introduce (a) rate relief and (b) other incentives to stores supplying local produce. [116349]

The information is as follows:

(a) There are reasons of both principle and of practical effect which argue against this recommendation. Non-domestic rates are designed to raise revenue for the Exchequer. Ratepayers pay rates that reflect the rental value of the property regardless of the activity that takes place within that property. Rates are not there to encourage or discourage particular types of behaviour or investment. There are innumerable worthy causes that the rates system could support by granting relief and this would introduce complexity to a system that aims to be fair and equitable. There are, however, other options, which may be more effective. The Local Government Bill will introduce a new scheme of rate relief for small businesses. Many small retailers supplying local produce could benefit under this scheme.

(b) There is growing consumer interest in local food. Many retailers have responded to this and have adopted local sourcing policies. We welcome this and want to encourage more local sourcing. We have recently financed a series of workshops organised by the Institute of Grocery Distribution, designed to bring together supermarkets and small local producers to explore how barriers to local sourcing may be overcome. In addition to this, we have just announced an extra £3 million over the next three years for Food from Britain to undertake a series of measures encouraging retailers to source more quality regional food and consumers to buy it.