Tuesday 21 February 2017 7:12 pm

London's Tory MPs band together to battle business rate plans

London's Tory MPs are banding together to propose reforms to business rates as the pressure builds on chancellor Philip Hammond.

Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond told City A.M. that MPs were reflecting the fact that capital business faces some of the steepest increases in the country.

“The pressure is building at a time when it's very difficult for businesses,” Hammond said.

The chancellor sought to address concerns in a Westminster meeting with Conservative backbenchers earlier this week.

Read More: Sadiq Khan "shocked" at business rate rise threatening London's small firms

And Stephen Hammond, who is chairing a group of more than 20 Greater London Conservative MPs on the matter, said he was optimistic that his namesake was “in listening mode”.

However, the backbencher noted that he will be meeting with London colleagues next week to discuss further options if the Treasury declines suggestions for reform, including further transitional relief options.

“We are a long way away from threats,” Stephen Hammond said. Rather than voting down the Finance Bill introduced after next month's Budget, the Wimbledon MP said that determined rebellious MPs could instead seek to put forward amendments.

Read More: Should business rates be scrapped?

It comes as Southport MP John Pugh writes to the head of the civil service to demand an explanation for a letter authored by communities secretary Sajid Javid and treasury minister David Gauke on business rates.

The letter included figures on the average rate changes across constituencies, but the numbers involved have since been questioned, with reports suggesting that ministers may have understated the increases.

Writing to Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Lib Dem MP will question why the letter was only sent to Conservative MPs and ask for “revised and accurate figures” to be made public.

“We need to know who came up with these dodgy figures and why they were sent to Tory MPs only and not made public,” Pugh said.

“The government must come clean. The public and business owners in London deserve clear answers now. It can’t be right that high street shops are being with punishingly high tax hikes while huge online retailers pay nothing.”