MP: Labour “Farm tax” is “irresponsible and devastating.”

Edward Leigh EMN-140526-102046001
Edward Leigh EMN-140526-102046001

A Labour plan to impose a £500 million tax on farms would be “extremely damaging to Lincolnshire” warns Market Rasen MP Sir Edward Leigh.

“This is a shocking revelation, and it would be extremely damaging to Lincolnshire. There’s a good reason why agricultural land and buildings are exempted from the rates. Does Labour really want to return to the era of derelict farms and depressed farm incomes? It would be an irresponsible and devastating act to bring them back,” the MP told the Rasen Mail.

Ed Miliband is considering plans to impose new taxes on agricultural land by scrapping the exemption on business rates, which has existed since 1929.

The plans are contained in a report commissioned by Mr Miliband, from former Wickes DIY boss Bill Grimsey, aimed at reviving struggling town centres. It recommends a new property owners’ tax, seperate to business rates, on top of income tax. A further new business tax would be imposed on prosperous towns, backdated to before the general election, to fund support for high streets in poorer areas, to try and reduce the north-south divide.

Gordon Brown had considered ending the business rate exemption on farms under a review of local taxation in 2007. The plans were scrapped after warnings it could bankrupt struggling farmers.

A Labour spokesperson said:” This is not a Labour Party report or party policy. A future Labour government would cut business rates for small business,”

While other countryside organisations criticised the proposals, a Lincolnshire NFU spokesman said: “As the report is about a leaked proposal, NFU isn’t able to comment.”