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John Healey: A feature of my hon. Friend's interventions during the passage of this Finance Bill has been a request for such factual information. An exhaustive list of the sources of support for such projects would take some time. They range from local authorities to special Government funds and, in the case of Scotland, the Scottish Executive would have a part to play.

Armourstone, the large blocks of aggregate that are often used in sea walls or coastal protection, was brought into the scope of the levy as a result of the levy's extension to uncrushed rock. That was a necessary change. Because aggregates can be produced from rock without crushing it, consultation with the industry suggested that there was a danger of distortion of competition and the distinct possibility of avoidance.

Mr. Alan Reid: The Minister referred to a distortion of competition, but we are talking about small islands. Does he seriously think that there will be two competing quarries on one small island?

John Healey: The operation of the levy will encourage much greater efficiency in the use of aggregates, which will help in the sort of circumstances to which the hon. Gentleman is referring. It will also help to encourage the use of alternatives to virgin aggregates and a reduction in the amounts that are used.

If coastal protection projects were to be exempt, as the amendment proposes, requests for exemption would inevitably be made in respect of other worthy projects such as the building of schools and roads, for which there may be the social case to which the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan referred.

Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim): I, too, represent a coastal area, and I cannot foresee any means of reducing the amount of aggregate that is needed to provide

4 Jul 2002 : Column 467

sea defences. Will the Minister tell us whether the Government plan to compensate those who will have the responsibility of providing sea defences by giving grant aid towards such defences?

John Healey: If the hon. Gentleman doubts that the levy can help to encourage those who are considering plans for such projects to reduce the amount of aggregate that is involved, he might like to have a word with the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan, as that is exactly what is currently happening as a result of the levy in the Peterhead bay project, to which he referred.

The Government are sympathetic to the fact that coastal defence projects are designed to protect the environment. We support such projects in a range of ways, but I must tell the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan that I do not propose that an exemption from the aggregates levy should become one of the ways in which we support such work.

The hon. Gentleman also raised with me the question whether an alternative source of support may be available through the Public Works Loan Board in relation to the Peterhead bay project. I am sympathetic to that idea. As he knows, I am sympathetic to the project itself and would not want it to be jeopardised. I understand that there may be some legal difficulties in securing a loan from the board, but I would urge the local authority to explore that option with the board as a way of providing extra support.

On that basis, I encourage the hon. Gentleman to ask leave to withdraw his amendment. If he is not prepared to do so, I ask the House to reject it.

Mr. Salmond: I thank the Minister for those last few words. Hon. Members will understand that the bay project in Peterhead is very important to my constituency, not least because of the economic benefits that could flow from it in an area that has been extremely hard pressed economically, so I welcome his sympathy and support. I also freely acknowledge that his predecessor shared a similar opinion. I hope that we can find a way forward through other mechanisms and I accept his bona fides and word on that matter.

However, I hope that the Minister will not think that I am grudging if I wish to push the matter in principle. Although we agree that the project in my constituency and, no doubt, similar projects in other constituencies, are a good thing, a principle is involved, and I should like to spend a very few minutes explaining what I think is the disagreement in principle.

As I pointed out, the Government originally accepted that uncrushed, unmachined aggregates did not pose the same risk of environmental damage as machine-processed aggregates. They moved from that position only because it was suggested that there might well be areas of exemption and unfair competition. Indeed, if I had proposed in the amendment again to exempt unprocessed aggregates, that would have been a fair argument against it. However, the amendment suggests only that as coastal defences are a good thing for the community, they should be exempt.

I pointed out to the Minister that some 22 exemptions were already covered, and I gave some illustrations involving clay pigeons and other things. I have no quarrel

4 Jul 2002 : Column 468

with those exemptions and have suggested merely that approved coastal defence projects seem to me a legitimate exemption.

Sir Robert Smith: Did the hon. Gentleman notice that the Minister's strongest argument was that he was frightened of agreeing to add coastal defences to the list because someone else might want to be included on it afterwards? That is one the weakest arguments to have come from the Government. Obviously, the coastal defence issue would be defined by the fact that there were no alternatives.

Mr. Salmond: That point makes itself.

I have a lot of sympathy with the Minister, as he has had to argue a very difficult case. His predecessor had exactly the same difficulty in Westminster Hall and in the Committee considering the statutory instrument. Ministers sometimes find themselves in that position, but they also have a wider responsibility. When a case appears very difficult to progress, it may be because there is something wrong with the argument that the Minister is being asked to deliver.

The case of the island communities has been made. Other legislation sets out special requirements for such communities and I see no reason why the Bill should not contain similar measures. In respect of the particular case in which I have a constituency interest, it is impossible to argue that environmental damage will be caused by taking materials from Stirlinghill quarry five miles along the road, with community support, and putting them in the breakwater to calm the harbour. There is no environmental concern in my constituency.

Rob Marris: I appreciate that that may be the case in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, but perhaps he will also accept that it might not be the case in other parts of the United Kingdom. Would not a better way of addressing the issue be for those in Banff and Buchan, Tiree and other places to seek greater grant aid, rather than to change the basis of the tax system for the whole country?

Mr. Salmond: I thought that I was doing quite well in gaining the Minister's sympathy with regard to the Public Works Loan Board. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that we up the ante for grants, I would be the first to agree. None the less, he has a fair point. When introducing legislation, we have to look for unintended consequences. If the Government had said that they were going to end up taxing coastal defences without having meant to do so and were putting in place fiscal help to compensate through grant aid, his point would have been well made. We are not in that position, however, and the reason for tabling the amendment progressing the case is to advertise to the Minister that there is a genuine problem that will affect my constituency immediately and will very shortly affect island constituencies. I suggest that it will also affect coastal constituencies throughout the United Kingdom. The problem needs to be dealt with in one way or another.

While I welcome the Minister's assurances and sympathy in relation to the Public Works Loan Board—the principle could perhaps be applied not only in my constituency, but to appropriate cases in a wider sphere—

4 Jul 2002 : Column 469

I would like to press the amendment in principle. I believe that coastal defences are a good thing and should not be taxed, because the community purpose that they serve will increase in future, not decrease.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 161, Noes 263.

Division No. 295
[4.58 pm


AYES


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Allan, Richard
Amess, David
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bacon, Richard
Baron, John
Beggs, Roy
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Beresford, Sir Paul
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brady, Graham
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Mrs Annette L
Burns, Simon
Burnside, David
Burstow, Paul
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, John
Cable, Dr Vincent
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Cameron, David
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Clappison, James
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
(Rushcliffe)
Cotter, Brian
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Doughty, Sue
Duncan, Peter (Galloway)
Duncan Smith, Rt Hon Iain
Evans, Nigel
Ewing, Annabelle
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London)
Flight, Howard
Flook, Adrian
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Francois, Mark
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gibb, Nick
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodman, Paul
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hammond, Philip
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Dr Evan (Oxford W)
Hayes, John
Heath, David
Heathcoat–Amory, Rt Hon David
Hendry, Charles
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mark
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Holmes, Paul
Horam, John
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jenkin, Bernard
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles
(Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, Rt Hon Greg (E Yorkshire)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Andrew
Laws, David
Leigh, Edward
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell–Grainger, Ian
Lidington, David
Llwyd, Elfyn
Luff, Peter
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Mates, Michael
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Mercer, Patrick
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Moore, Michael
Moss, Malcolm
Murrison, Dr Andrew
Norman, Archie
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mark
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Salmond, Alex
Selous, Andrew
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Simmonds, Mark
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Desmond
Swire, Hugo
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thurso, John
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Tyler, Paul
Tyrie, Andrew
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Weir, Michael
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Younger–Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Simon Thomas and
Hywel Williams.


NOES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Stuart
Bennett, Andrew
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Borrow, David
Bradley, Rt Hon Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Rt Hon Nicholas
(Newcastle E & Wallsend)
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Curtis–Thomas, Mrs Claire
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Drown, Ms Julia
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ennis, Jeff
Farrelly, Paul
Field, Rt Hon Frank (Birkenhead)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foulkes, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hain, Rt Hon Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Margaret
Hood, Jimmy
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hurst, Alan
Illsley, Eric
Irranca–Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Joyce, Eric
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kelly, Ruth
Kemp, Fraser
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Andrew
Luke, Iain
Lyons, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
MacShane, Denis
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Martlew, Eric
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Mole, Chris
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Diana
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Quinn, Lawrie
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Roy, Frank
Ruddock, Joan
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simon, Siôn
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watson, Tom
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. Ivor Caplin and
Derek Twigg.

Question accordingly negatived.

4 Jul 2002 : Column 472

Order for Third Reading read.


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