Lyons Inquiry signals major threat to British farming, says MP

Conservative MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown has attacked the government’s Lyons Inquiry into local government funding, which suggested business rates could be re-introduced on agricultural land and buildings.

Farmland and buildings have been exempt from business rates since 1929, on the basis that agriculture faced severe economic difficulties.

While the Lyons inquiry, which reported on Wednesday, 20 March, seemed to rule out any re-introduction of business rates in the short term, it did include a consideration that: “This situation no longer applies to the same extent, and there would seem, in principle, little reason to maintain this special treatment.”

Some sources, including land agent Savills, have estimated that a re-introduction of business rates could land the farming industry with a bill of £300-£440m.

Mr Clifton-Brown, MP for The Cotswolds, said: “These proposals should never be allowed to come into force for the good of British farming.

“This is a seriously ill-informed commentary on the current state of the agricultural industry in the United Kingdom.

“At a time when dairy farmers are going out of business at a rate higher than at any time since the Second World War, and when the European Union is examining wholesale reductions of agricultural subsidies, this will be the kiss of death to all but the largest farms in the UK.

“This would be particular serious in an area like the Cotswolds, where the cost of land rental is high, yet productivity is low.

‘Farming is the backbone of rural Britain; if farming suffers, then it will suffer too.’

For more information and industry reaction on the findings of the Lyons Inquiry, click here.