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Mr. Timms: Let me first respond to the points of the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) about timetabling. It has been made clear to him, and it should also be made clear to the House, that if the usual channels on his side had last week sought a change to the order of the discussions this evening, we would willingly have made that change.

Mr. Letwin: I have checked with my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) as to the exact order of events. We requested that we debate clause 16 alone among the aggregates tax items, followed by clause 79 and some new clauses. That was rejected, despite this request having been communicated by the usual channels, at the highest level, and despite a subsequent conversation between the Financial Secretary and me.

When that request was rejected, this timetable motion was brought forward. In our anxiety, we did not at that stage notice that our original proposition had been rejected. However, the effect of the timetabling, with time slots up to 7 pm, 9 pm and midnight, was to shove all the important parts of the aggregates tax discussion into the first three hours. There is no reason on earth for the Government to have done that, except by mistake. I take the Financial Secretary's honest word for it that it was not intentional, but it was clearly an error. I admit that we were in error in not spotting that it should have been corrected, but the fact is that this was done not by us but by the Government.

23 Apr 2001 : Column 134

Mr. Timms: The hon. Gentleman rightly and generously accepts that the responsibility for the matter lies on his side, and that it could have been put right if the usual channels had taken steps to do that.

Sir Robert Smith: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Timms: No, I will not give way again on this. It is important that the House recognise the reason for the difficulty that the hon. Member for West Dorset and his right hon. and hon. Friends have faced tonight.

Sir Robert Smith: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Timms: No, time is getting on, and I need to address a number of points.

The hon. Members for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross) and for West Dorset suggested that there had been some haste about the process. I assure the House that that is not the case. The draft clauses were first published two years ago, in April 1999. Following extensive discussion and consultation, a second set of draft clauses was published in June last year--these clauses have not been put together in haste. The whole process has been one of careful consideration, consultation and modification, and this is a well designed measure as a result.

We could have some fun with the wording of amendment No. 26. The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) disowned the wording. He said that he and his right hon. and hon. Friends had tabled a new clause on the subject. Presumably we can expect to debate that at a later stage in our proceedings. However, the wording of amendment No. 26, which allows the commissioners to deem anything, effectively, as aggregates for the purposes of the levy, would not command wide support.

11.45 pm

To help to maintain a level playing field for UK aggregates companies, any import of aggregate that would be taxable if it had originated in the UK will be subject to the levy on first sale or use in the UK. Under European Union law, we are bound not to tax imported products to a greater extent than domestic ones. That means that any aggregate that would normally be taxable in the UK will be taxed on first sale or use in the UK after importation from another country. Similarly, any imported material that would not normally be taxable if it had originated in the UK will not be subject to the levy.

Concern has been expressed that the levy applies to imports of aggregate in aggregate form. There is concern that the UK's pre-cast concrete sector will be damaged by the importation of tax-free processed products. We have considered that issue in detail. Officials have met the British Precast Concrete Federation, and I shall meet representatives of the federation next week. As a result of a great deal of reflection, we have concluded that we do not expect a significant impact on that sector because international trade in its products is limited by weight and transport costs.

Imports currently represent only 1 per cent. of total pre-cast concrete industry sales because of the substantial cost of shipping pre-cast concrete.

Mr. Tyrie: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Timms: Given the lateness of the hour, I shall not.

23 Apr 2001 : Column 135

There are substantial barriers to international trade because of the costs of shipping pre-cast concrete from Norway, France and elsewhere. Such imports as exist are largely in high-value products, the proportionate prices of which would be affected only slightly by the addition of the levy. Our considered view is that there will be no problem.

We are prepared to continue to examine the issue in the run-up to the levy's introduction, and I shall hear the industry's concerns next week. No figures given in the debate have made me question the conclusion that we have drawn so far, but I shall listen carefully to what the industry has to say.

The suggestion made in the debate that 4,000 to 10,000 jobs might be at stake is simply absurd. The pre-cast concrete industry should have the same incentives for efficiency and increased use of recycled aggregates as others will experience as a result of the levy. The aggregates sold for that purpose should contribute to the sustainability fund that will be available to help communities to address the problems arising from quarrying.

The hon. Member for West Dorset told the Committee that he would not have voted for the landfill tax introduced by the previous Government. Even now, some members of his party want the Government to take steps to protect the environment, as we are doing. His party does itself no favours in its current troubled circumstances by lurching to the right in the way that he has done tonight, by repudiating an environmental tax measure introduced by the previous Government.

Amendment No. 24 addresses issues in Northern Ireland, and the hon. Member for East Londonderry made several important points. We have listened carefully to arguments about the implications of the aggregates levy for Northern Ireland. The industry there will be generally protected because imports of aggregate will be subject to the levy and exports will be relieved. Opportunities to smuggle aggregates into Northern Ireland will be pretty limited because of the bulky nature of the products involved and their low value. Customs operational staff have much experience of dealing with such matters. I am confident that, combined with the legitimate quarrying industry, Customs will combat the potential for smuggling across the Northern Ireland land border.

The main concerns expressed relate to the impact on the pre-cast concrete sector. That merits careful consideration. I point out to the hon. Member for East Londonderry and to the Committee that, at this stage, I have seen no convincing evidence--facts and figures--to suggest that there will be a significant impact on Northern Ireland firms; international trade in those products is limited by weight and by transport costs.

We are nevertheless prepared to continue to assess with the Northern Ireland Executive the implications of the levy. The Executive have raised concerns about that and have done some work. We shall be happy to continue that assessment during the run-up to the introduction of the levy, and to consider evidence submitted by the industry on the issue. There may be an issue that we need to address, but at present there is no convincing evidence of it. I ask the Committee to resist the amendment.

23 Apr 2001 : Column 136

The measure is important and will bring significant environmental benefits in its wake--by ensuring that the price of aggregates reflects the environmental costs incurred in obtaining them; by increasing the price advantage for recycled aggregates; and by contributing to a sustainability fund that can be used to address the problems caused by quarrying in affected communities. I urge the Committee to resist the amendments.

Mr. Ottaway: The Minister's response to the arguments was wholly unsatisfactory. Powerful arguments have been made about the damage that will be caused to the British economy and to the British aggregates sector. In those circumstances, we shall divide the Committee.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The Committee divided: Ayes 137, Noes 255.

Division No. 189
[11.52 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Allan, Richard
Amess, David
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brand, Dr Peter
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon
Burstow, Paul
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Cash, William
Chidgey, David
Clappison, James
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cotter, Brian
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jenkin, Bernard
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkwood, Archy
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
McCrea, Dr William
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Mates, Michael
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, James
Paisley, Rev Ian
Pickles, Eric
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Soames, Nicholas
Spicer, Sir Michael
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyler, Paul
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Waterson, Nigel
Webb, Steve
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Willetts, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Stephen Day and
Mr. Owen Paterson.


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald
(Swansea E)
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Rt Hon Keith
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Butler, Mrs Christine
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Dalyell, Tam
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, Rt Hon John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Flint, Caroline
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Gapes, Mike
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hanson, David
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Jimmy
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Joyce, Eric
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
Organ, Mrs Diana
Pearson, Ian
Pike, Peter L
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Quinn, Lawrie
Raynsford, Rt Hon Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Salter, Martin
Savidge, Malcolm
Sheerman, Barry
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Tynan, Bill
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Kevin Hughes and
Mrs. Anne McGuire.

Question accordingly negatived.

23 Apr 2001 : Column 139

Clause 48 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 49 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

To report progress and ask leave to sit again.-- [Mr. McNulty.]

Committee report progress; to sit again tomorrow.

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