Assuming that the regulations are introduced and pass into law before the summer recess, may I point out that all that they do is defer the payment? Will the Minister explain in a little more detail why he decided against supporting the Small Business Rate Relief (Automatic Payment) Bill, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Peter Luff), which would have enabled all eligible small businesses to halve their rate bills?
We wanted to deal with a bigger problem. The retail prices index meant a 5 per cent. increase in the rates bills of every business, not just small businesses, and there was a particular problem for businesses that experienced the end of the transitional relief for this year. Given the current economic circumstances and the pressure that people are under, we wanted to help them to manage their cash flow and manage this increase by allowing them to pay a lower level of increase this year and spread the payments over the following two years. That is why we are introducing the regulations, and that is why they have been welcomed by business organisations.