The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has regular discussions with other Government Departments on matters affecting business. The reform of empty property relief follows the recommendations of Kate Barker’s independent review of land use planning and Sir Michael Lyons’ independent inquiry into local government. The aim is to promote the supply of commercial property by providing a strong incentive for owners to re-use, re-let or redevelop their properties. This will improve competitiveness for all businesses that rent premises, including, of course, small and medium-sized enterprises.
Is the Minister aware that the proposals will have the opposite effect? Small property businesses in Kettering are telling me that they will not invest in property unless they have a client ready to move in on day one. Will that not reduce flexibility for business relocation and actually hinder economic growth?
It surely cannot be right that, as a perverse consequence of business rating, people had no real incentive to let properties, when many small businesses want them. It is not surprising that the Federation of Small Businesses called for empty property rates to be reformed in its submission to the Lyons inquiry. I would have thought that the approach that we are taking is good for business. If people cannot let because rents are too high, they should lower them. We are in favour of competition for small businesses.