Tesco and British Airways have joined a big business campaign that has written to the prime minister calling for the government to scrap tax penalties on empty business properties. The call from the British Property Federation (BPF) has also seen other leading companies such as Nokia, McDonald's, B&Q, Next and Legal & General, sign up for an immediate business rate relief on empty buildings. Rate relief was scrapped in April in a bid to raise £1.3bn but according to the BPF, the figure is set to rise to £2bn due to so many firms having vacant space. Dubbed the 'bombsite Britain' tax over the way it has caused landlords to demolish buildings rather than go bust paying rates, the BPF, the trade body for property, has led a year-long campaign backed by dozens of MPs. BPF chief executive Liz Peace said: 'It's like making the unemployed pay income tax. Taxing hardship and business failure is a ludicrous way to help people through the hard times. Brown must act now to undo this mess.' Support for a Commons motion against the tax, placed by Halifax MP Linda Riordan, has doubled in the last week to over 70 MPs. Riordan said: 'Far from being an issue that will just affect jobs and regeneration in Halifax, empty rates will hurt all areas of the country, irrespective of what industry or political alignment they have.' The letter may heap embarrassment on the government after it set out measures last week to help businesses affected by the downturn.