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Euro Tories slam land-tax plans

[Thursday 12 April 2007]
Gordon Brown
Euro Tories slam Brown's land-tax plans

TORY Euro MPs launched a livid attack on plans to impose business taxes on farm land and buildings in a report written by Lord Lyons and ordered by Chancellor Gordon Brown (See News Wednesday).

In a press statement demanding that the suggestion be ruled out, Conservative members in Brussels issued the following statement:

Proposals to end the 70 year old business rate exemption for agricultural land and buildings - buried in the recent Lyons review into local government funding - must be ruled out immediately by the Treasury and David Miliband, Neil Parish, Conservative agriculture spokesman in the European Parliament, said today.

In his report, Sir Michael says, "There would seem in principle to be little reason to maintain the special treatment. " Currently rural homeowners pay no local business tax on adjoining fields or farm buildings, but under the Lyons proposals the buildings would be classified as composite and business rates would apply on the farm buildings or land.

According to Sir Michael, the extra revenue raised by abolishing the exemption would be in the region of £300 million, but Mr Parish, who chairs the European Parliament's agriculture committee, says the plans would once again put British farmers at a significant disadvantage to counterparts on the continent.

He said: "Farm incomes will be substantially reduced if these proposals are enacted. The total income from UK farming has more than halved in the past decade and this new tax would be the straw that broke the camel's back for many farms.

"The Chancellor has clearly written off the rural vote at the next election, and he must be stopped from making a devastating smash and grab raid on farmers for the sake of a few hundred million pounds to plug his spending gap.

"Ultimately, the Chancellor seems ambivalent towards negative headlines on rural issues and calls from rural folk like myself, so it falls to David Miliband to stand up to him and demand he publicly rules out these proposals."

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