Andrew Jones MP
Andrew Jones MP

Andrew Jones MP calls for fairer Business Rates between online and high street

26 May 2018

This week saw Marks and Spencer announce closure of a number of stores with the Harrogate store currently being spared.

The Shadow SNP spokesperson has posed an urgent question to the Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in the house of commons – 24 May 2018.

Andrew Jones MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough has supported the debate and emphasised the importance of towns having a significant “anchor store” and called for fairer business rates between online and high street retailers,

Lisa Cameron, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Mental Health) said:

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy if he will make a statement on the implications of the decision of Marks & Spencer to close 14 branches across the United Kingdom.


Claire Perry, The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said:

I welcome the chance to address the House on this matter. I pay tribute to the hon. Lady for her chairmanship of the all-party group on textile and fashion, and I commiserate with her on the fact that one of the stores that will be closing is in her constituency.

Who among us is not touched by the hand of M&S? I counted up this morning, and I am in fact wearing three items of M&S clothing—I will not declare what they are. Indeed, my breakfast this morning entirely comprised items bought at the Gatwick M&S after a late-night flight. By the way, I defy anyone in the House not to say that they have at least one item of clothing in their wardrobe from that fine retailer. This is, however, a worrying time.

As the hon. Lady said, Marks & Spencer made an announcement on Tuesday about 14 of its UK stores. This is part of a well-advertised plan to reshape its estates and, essentially, to reshape its stores to compete, given the very big challenges of many online retailers in the country. Five of the stores will close this year or early next year, and all colleagues at those locations will be offered redeployment to other stores. Nine other stores have been proposed for closure, and Marks & Spencer has entered a period of consultation on the redeployment of staff in those stores. All of us will of course recognise that this is a worrying time for the over 600 staff members currently going through that process. I know that there will be concern among Members on both sides of the House about this issue. The Government—the Department for Work and Pensions and Jobcentre Plus—will of course stand by, should support be required, to work with the company.

There have been a number of announcements in the retail sector recently—negative and also positive in terms of job creation. We should all recognise the incredible contribution of this sector to the UK economy—it was almost £95 billion in 2016—and this Government’s ongoing support for the sector. We have announced measures worth more than £2 billion over the next five years to cut business rates, with a positive change to the indexation of business rates.

Only this March, the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, my hon. Friend Andrew Griffiths, set up the Retail Sector Council, which is determined to drive up this sector’s productivity and ensure that it is fit to face future challenges. Sitting on the sector council are retailers—large and small; online and offline; in town and out of town—and the unions are of course very much a part of that process. The object of the council is for the Government and industry to work together to drive up productivity, and also to secure our fantastic retail sector’s future health and direction. We are working together on the requirements to make sure that productivity and economic growth in this sector can continue for many years to come.



Andrew Jones MP said:

Speaking as a former Marks & Spencer supplier and current Marks & Spencer customer, Dr Cameron highlighted the importance of an anchor store to a town’s retail offer and the social importance of the high street.

I entirely agreed with her question. Will my right hon. Friend remain vigilant on, or at least sensitive to, the impact of business rates for physical retailers as compared to internet retailers?

Will she monitor that carefully, because we want to ensure a level playing field for the social benefit we have been talking about?


Claire Perry, The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said:

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. We have tolerated that difference for too long. It is right to have a fair allocation of VAT between both channels.



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