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High Streets (England)

Volume 616: debated on Monday 24 October 2016

We all want to see our high streets succeed and thrive and that is why we have introduced the biggest cut in business rates, worth £6.7 billion. We have launched the high street pledge, we have introduced digital high street pilots, and we are celebrating our high streets through the Great British High Street award, the finalists of which we announced last week.

Thornbury High Street attracts visitors from around the country to its art festival, regular farmers markets and annual carnival. Does my hon. Friend recognise the contribution of tourism to local high streets, and how is he working with his colleagues at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to support high streets as local and regional tourism destinations?

I know from my constituency how important the high street is in attracting people in. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work he is doing in his constituency. We saw an increase in footfall in August of 1.1%. We are working closely across government with our colleagues in DCMS on funds such as the Discover England Fund and, of course, the Coastal Communities Fund, which is funding a significant number of projects that are all about increasing tourism and jobs in the tourism sector.

The Minister mentioned business rates. As a result of the business rate revaluation, many retailers on high streets up and down the country face significant increases in business rates. That will not help high streets, and it will not help retailers. Is that not the reality of what he has just announced?

Of course, the business rate cut is helping 600,000 of the smallest businesses, which do not pay any business rates at all. It is fiscally neutral, and three quarters of businesses will see a cut. I would have thought that that would be something the hon. Gentleman would welcome.

In the next week I will be launching my annual best shop and market stall competition, with a new category—best café—this year. Will my hon. Friend join me in wishing all the entrants the best of luck, and does he agree that independent outlets are key to creating a unique and thriving town centre?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on this excellent competition. I look forward to hearing the results, and pay tribute to all the work she is doing. Independent retailers are central to the success of many of our high streets and I pay tribute to the work they do. They of course will benefit from the small business rate cut that we have announced.

We have some beautiful high streets in Corby and East Northamptonshire, and our pubs are an integral part of them. What steps are Ministers taking to help to promote our pub trade and ensure that these vital community hubs are protected?

Again, the business rate cut is of significant value to many of our pubs. A huge number of tourists coming to the UK list a visit to a great British pub among their desires for their trip. That is why we made the changes we did to beer duty.