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QPA attacks Treasury ‘spin’ on aggregates levy

FOLLOWING the release of the Chancellor’s Pre-Budget Report last month, the Quarry Products Association expressed its disappointment in what it describes as the Government’s ‘continued spurious claims’ about the environmental effectiveness of the aggregates levy.

In the report, the Government claims that the production of primary aggregates fell by 8% between 2001 and 2003, that the production of recycled aggregates increased by 3 million tonnes during the same period, largely due to the levy, and that the levy has resulted in reductions in noise, vibration, dust, visual intrusion, loss of amenity and damage to wildlife habitats.

The QPA refutes these claims and says, in reality, the levy has had negligible environmental effect. It has added over £400 million to construction costs, generated still-increasing stockpiles of low-grade materials at quarry sites, encouraged additional extraction of non-taxed materials and has had only a marginal impact on the level of recycling.

 

The Association adds that although the levy was first proposed in the July 1997 Budget, prior to its introduction in April 2002, the Government has still not set out clear objectives for the levy nor any criteria or targets on which to judge its success. As a result, the levy is failing the Government’s own tests of good environmental taxation, notably the key test that such taxes must deliver ‘clear environmental gains cost-effectively’.

QPA director general Simon van der Byl said: ‘It is a pity that the Treasury prefers to spin the ‘success’ of the aggregates levy rather than engage in a holistic debate about the diminishing environmental impact of the aggregates industry and the best means of continuing to minimize and mitigate such impacts. In these circumstances, one can only assume that the levy is more about environmental gesture politics than real environmental impacts.

‘The Treasury also states that it is carrying out thorough evaluative research of the levy’s effectiveness, but this claim seems to be rather disingenuous. In practice, this is an internal Treasury exercise which it is clear from the Pre-Budget Report will reach a pre-ordained conclusion that the levy is operating successfully. This is not an objective nor a transparent process, but a means of whitewashing the real environmental issues.’

 

 

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