BAA rebuts QPANI claims over aggregates levy
British Aggregates Association says it does not accept any responsibility for present situation in Northern Ireland
RESPONDING to the recent claim by the QPANI that the greatest impediment to progress on addressing specific negative outcomes of the aggregates levy in Northern Ireland is the continuing legal case being progressed by the British Aggregates Association, the BAA says that while it sympathises with the plight of quarry companies in the province, it does not accept any responsibility for the present situation.
The BAA has filed an appeal against the European Commission’s Phase II decision that only certain aggregates levy exemptions (ie shale aggregate) involved illegal state aid. The appeal is due to be heard at the General Court in Luxembourg during 2016.
The Quarry Products Association Northern Ireland contends that the current focus of the BAA’s legal challenge could have been dealt with years ago through negotiation between industry and the Treasury, and that the actions of the BAA over the last 13 years have increased the amount of levy the Treasury takes from UK quarry companies.
However, in response, the BAA said the aggregates levy credit scheme (ALCS) in Northern Ireland was limited to 10 years by European Union law, and the Association’s legal action had merely cut it short.
BAA director Robert Durward commented: ‘We’ve been told on a number of occasions by government officials that, if the rest of the industry had shown the same degree of resistance to the levy as the BAA, then it would probably have been dropped. With the benefit of hindsight, the QPANI’s decision to accept a short-term fix instead was possibly not the best option.’
According to Mr Durward (pictured), the Treasury, in claiming it cannot reform or tackle the problems caused by the levy until the BAA’s legal challenge is concluded, is being less than honest.
‘The UK government can stop the aggregates levy pain in Northern Ireland any time it chooses,’ he said. ‘What it cannot do is treat Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the UK; it already tried to do this with the ALCS and came unstuck.’
Mr Durward continued: ‘As far back as July 2014, the BAA, in a tripartite meeting with Treasury officials and a senior member of the EU, offered to drop its legal action if a deal could be done. However, given the biased nature of the recent Phase II decision, it seems clear that Treasury chose to lean on the Commission instead.
‘It is highly significant that the Treasury refuses to divulge or even discuss what course of action it might pursue once the BAA legal action is concluded. This strongly suggests that it hasn’t the slightest intention of changing the aggregates levy unless it has to.’
Mr Durward added: ‘Northern Ireland operators with shale have been left in a much better position than operators on the mainland, as they only have to repay the reduced amount of 32p and 40p instead of £1.60 and £2.00.’