from Mark Prisk MP, shadow financial secretary to the Treasury

Sir; When the Chancellor announced the new Stamp Duty Land Tax, in his April budget, he promised that 60% of commercial leases would be exempt. It is now becoming clear that the reverse is true - that the majority of new business lease agreements could be liable, when the tax is implemented from December 1.

Two surveys by the British Retail Consortium and the British Beer & Pub Association have both found that only 29-33% would be exempt. Indeed, many businesses will face tax bills of anything between four and ten times their current liability. A typical pub, say on a £30,000 rent for a 20-year term, would see its tax liability rise from £600 to £6,000. Equally, B&Q is reported to face a tax hike from £35,000 to £285,000 on each new store they open.

As the Conservatives’ Shadow Financial Secretary, I have been working closely with businesses and their representatives to secure a fair deal and change the government’s mind. In July, I wrote to the chief secretary, Paul Boateng MP, asking him to confirm that, as promised, 60% of all business leasehold agreements would be exempt. Two months later no such confirmation has been forthcoming and it now looks that the government is trying to wriggle out of this promise.

I urge your readers to express their concerns to the Chancellor at HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road, London SW1A 2HQ.