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Business Rates

Volume 589: debated on Monday 15 December 2014

13. What estimate he has made of the number of small firms and shops in (a) England and (b) Derbyshire local authority area which will have a reduction in business rates in 2015-16. (906620)

We do not hold figures for that year, but estimate that our retail relief is currently benefiting around 300,000 premises in England, including 4,700 in Derbyshire. We are also doubling small business rate relief for a further year, which is currently benefiting around 575,000 businesses, including 12,300 in my hon. Friend’s local authority area.

I thank the Minister for her reply. As she knows, Belper in my constituency recently won the Great British High Street competition of 2014. What measures are the Secretary of State and his Department taking so that other towns and high streets can follow in Belper’s footsteps?

As well as providing rate relief and a raft of other packages, we are helping by instigating initiatives such as the Great British High Street competition. In entering that competition, Belper has enabled us to identify good practice, which we are now able to share. We have produced a publication, which we launched last week, and we are now rolling out a package of further training and support for areas in the country that are not as far ahead as Belper.

Now that the Minister for firefighters is on her feet, and taking into account the question about all those shops and businesses, will she agree that the firefighters have to deal with those? If there is a fire, an industrial disaster or a flood, the Government paint a lovely picture of our firefighters and the work that they do. Why does she not accept that the Government should be leaving their pension alone? Let them keep their pension.

If I can answer that question and remain in order—[Interruption.] We are obviously debating this matter later on today. I point out to the hon. Gentleman that the regulations that have been laid are an improvement on the 2006 scheme that his party brought in. A recent serious fire in Staffordshire highlighted a really good business liaison programme between fire and rescue services. Even businesses that were not directly affected by the fire were able to call on those services to enable them to continue trading. That model should be rolled out elsewhere.

Order. The hon. Gentleman was characteristically ingenious in the construction of his question, and we are grateful to him—I say that in all sincerity—but I advise the House that it was in any case my intention to get to Question 19, and I remain cautiously optimistic that we shall do so.