Aggregates tax under fire from all sides
SPEAKING at the Quarry Products Association's annual lunch last month, the association's chairman, Ian Reid, attacked the Government's decision to introduce an aggregates tax and called on the industry to work to continue to improve public perceptions of its activities.
Describing the tax as a 'severe blow', he said the QPA's voluntary package had received much support from MPs and local authorities, and little objective or factually based criticism from its detractors.
'There is no doubt that some of our audiences have a misinterpretation as to what the vast majority of the quarrying industry now stands for and no understanding of the improvements in standards achieved. We must ask ourselves, did the seeds of primary aggregates taxation lie in such misperceptions?'
He said the industry must be increasingly proactive and less reactive. 'As operators, we will all have to take responsibility for building on our current success by involving the wider public in understanding some of the positive messages we have to communicate.'
The aggregates tax also came under fire in the House of Commons recently when MPs of all parties criticized the proposed levy during the second reading of this year's Finance Bill.
Former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke QC described the aggregates tax, the climate change levy and the increases in the landfill tax as 'revenue raisers dressed up with an environmental cloak'. 'As a result, extraordinary damage is being done to industry,' he said.
Labour's Eric Illsley said he fully supported minimizing the use of raw materials through voluntary agreements. 'The proposed tax will not promote good practice in the aggregates industry but will be a tax on jobs in my constituency,' he warned.
David Heath of the Liberal Democrats said the tax 'will attack the very companies that are installing the infrastructure necessary to improve the environment'.
Echoing his sentiments, Christopher Gill, Conservative MP for Ludlow, said the tax 'will not differentiate between good and bad operators and provides no incentive to improve environmental performance.
Citing an example from his own constituency, he said: 'Last year Clee Hill Quarry won a civic trust award and a national quarry reclamation award for the restoration of former quarry workings. It is a slap in the face for the operators of that quarry and others who have worked hard to do the right thing by the environment.'