The British International Freight Association (BIFA) has welcomed the outbreak of common sense the new government has shown in giving a high priority to the scrapping of the backdated port rates bills.
According to reports in the national media, Conservative spokesman Lord Bates, the former shadow local government minister, has indicated that scrapping the bills would be a key priority of the new coalition government.
According to BIFA Director General, Peter Quantrill, the move signals a welcome break for Britains hard-pressed international freight sector. He commented: The fact that the new government has pledged to make scrapping this iniquitous demand a high priority means that Westminster has removed the sword of Damocles from some businesses at Britains ports and allows them to concentrate on what they want them to do facilitate Britains import and export freight movements. These backdated demands threatened businesses in the UKs ports with retrospective rates bills totalling millions of pounds. Several companies have failed after being presented with these draconian costs and others faced seven-figure sums that threatened to put them out of business.
Quantrill continued: This move is a welcome break for some BIFA members and others in the freight sector working tirelessly to bring goods to the UK and take our valuable exports worldwide. As the leading trade association for UK freight forwarders, we are non-political but that does not mean we hold back from praising the government, of any hue, when it works to support the facilitation of international trade.
The Valuation Office Agency an executive agency of HM Revenue & Customs decided in 2009 that port companies, including many BIFA members, had been undercharged for their business rates. In a controversial move, it subsequently backdated rates bills to April 2005. Companies in the sector were thought to have faced demands totalling 50 million in backdated demands.