QPANI seeks urgent action on aggregates levy
NI trade association calls for unified action to put an end to long-running uncertainty over the levy
FOLLOWING a recent meeting with Northern Ireland MPs, the Quarry Products Association Northern Ireland (QPANI) is calling for unified action to end the long-running uncertainty over the aggregates levy and the negative impact it is having on quarry companies in Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK.
QPANI regional director Gordon Best said: ‘We are making this call because our members’ patience has worn out. The levy was introduced in 2002 and almost immediately a legal challenge was launched by the British Aggregates Association (BAA) to force the Government to scrap it. This legal challenge has now been going on for almost 14 years with no end in sight.
‘In Northern Ireland, due to the lobbying of QPANI and support from our politicians, we did get an 80% relief from the levy up until December 2010 when the Government was forced to end it as a result of legal action by the BAA.
‘The suspension of the scheme saw the aggregates levy in Northern Ireland increase from 40p per tonne on stone and sand to £2.00 per tonne, an increase of 500% and almost 40% of the selling price of stone in Northern Ireland.
‘The increase has caused, and continues to cause, significant loss of business to imports from the Irish Republic and to the growing black market across Northern Ireland. The aggregates levy is also a major drain on the construction budgets of the NI Executive.
‘In addition, and equally serious, the BAA legal action has resulted in the levy being extended to previously untaxed shale aggregates, thus putting a number of Northern Ireland quarry companies on the verge of bankruptcy.’
Mr Best continued: ‘This is now an absolute mess. We need the BAA and the Treasury to step back from what are very legalistic positions they find themselves in and agree a compromise on the legal case so that all the representative organizations from the quarry industry can sit round the table with the Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs, to agree a way forward and more sustainable solution for the aggregates levy that may result in a restructuring or even scrapping of the levy.
‘Our industry is extremely grateful for the support that all our politicians have given over the past few years to supporting the Northern Ireland industry. Our MLAs, our MPs at Westminster and our MEPs have given us support throughout this frustratingly long process, for which our members and their employees are very grateful.
‘With their support we now intend to take this message to Westminster, to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and Treasury Select Committee, to Europe and the EU Commissioner, and to other UK MPs from quarrying constituencies.’
The BAA, which is set to challenge the latest European Commission Phase II decision on aggregates levy exemptions in the Luxembourg General Court in 2016, has welcomed the QPANI’s call for urgent action.
Association director Robert Durward said: ‘The BAA welcomes QPANI stepping up political pressure to have the aggregates levy scrapped or significantly modified. However, we have already offered to settle our dispute with the Treasury on a number of occasions, to no avail.’
He added: ‘The BAA also welcomes QPANI’s call for the industry to co-operate to achieve a satisfactory outcome; this is something we have been trying to achieve since before the levy was introduced.’
The BAA has proposed that the aggregates levy be replaced with a 10p per tonne Local Community Fund, which would produce at least £40 million for local projects.