Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 80 - 90)



  80. Changing the subject slightly, you analysed the reasons why there was a downturn in construction in Northern Ireland and the first was the international economic situation which obviously was to a certain extent before 11 September and aggravated by those events. The others were internal to the politics and the perceptions of the politics of Northern Ireland. Given the changes which have taken place post decommissioning, would you see any improvement in confidence, inward investment, arising from them?
  (Mr Doran) I would think over time that the answer has to be positive, yes, there will be further advantages accruing to Northern Ireland. However, in the short to medium-term disadvantages. As the Assembly goes through a process of looking at PPP as alternatives to traditional procurement and those priorities are made there is that hiatus. The combination in the short term of that current difficulty plus the international one means that the quarry tax is just a further bite at confidence. It is the least opportune moment, if that were possible, for the introduction of such a tax.

Mark Tami

  81. Going back to one of the questions I asked earlier about how the industry would react, which you have covered to some extent under Mr Bailey's last question, I talked about the short term and the long term. What is your view as an individual? Will the industry look to avoid? Taking into account this mileage from the border, how do you see that developing over the period? That is perhaps an unfair question.
  (Mr Doran) I would think the likelihood would be twofold: one, that there would be job substitution in the Republic; secondly, that there would be a natural level of avoidance, how large or small I do not know. I would presume Customs & Excise, through looking back at their licensing arrangements can see the gross value of aggregate produced through gross tonnage and should be fairly easily able to see £1.60 per tonne multiplied by the gross tonnage. I should therefore think that avoidance would be at the margin.

  82. Obviously it will vary but do they tend to be small builders or are they large firms?
  (Mr Doran) The technical definition of most contracting companies in Northern Ireland would be SMEs; there are half a dozen who turn over more than £50 million. There would not be more than 30 who turn over more than £20 million. The vast majority affected by this are likely to be companies who would trade on average between £1 and £5 million.

Mr McCabe

  83. When and how did your Federation first become aware of the possibility of this levy?
  (Mr Doran) It was during the Chancellor's statement in March 2000 when we first noticed it. We had had no direct approaches from the Treasury or Northern Ireland Government on the issues.

  84. So the first your Federation knew about it was when you heard the Chancellor's statement.
  (Mr Doran) It was an issue which was evolving but when we first looked at the statement was when we first noticed it. We were aware of the background issues to the Kyoto convention and all the rest of it but that was the first time we became aware of it specifically.

  85. After you became aware of it, what exactly has been the role of the Federation in making representations to government or taking part in the consultations?
  (Mr Doran) They have been twofold. First of all we have a close association with the Quarry Products Association and we have shared our energies and time with them. We basically follow them as the lead body in the consultations, first with the Treasury and then with Customs & Excise and Northern Ireland departments. We have been significantly involved in lobbying both Northern Ireland MPs and MLAs and it was one of the few issues on which there has been full unanimity across all Northern Ireland Assembly parties and the executive on the issue.

  86. How long have you been the Director of the Federation?
  (Mr Doran) I have been in the current post since 1995 and I joined the Federation in 1974. Man and boy.

  87. A long time. I am curious about something. We have listened today to your concerns but has a tax or a levy been proposed during the period you have been the Director that your Federation have approved of or have not said posed a risk to jobs?
  (Mr Doran) Nobody, in the construction industry or otherwise, asks for additional taxation. There are areas of tax such as the construction industry training board levy, where we have sought to do that to improve the quality of training in the industry. We recognise there are social issues involved in employment but we also recognise that those are subject to consultation and agreement. In the broadest sense, we have not to my memory complained or lobbied at all against any particular tax in the last five years. I cannot, going further back, remember having lobbied so strenuously against any tax.

Mr Clarke

  88. Could we turn to the use of the Sustainability Fund? Within the written evidence both the Construction Employers Federation and the Quarry Products Association note the unequal distribution of the Sustainability Fund monies: even though Northern Ireland produces 10 per cent of aggregates you will only receive 2.4 per cent of the revenue. Would you like to place on record your feelings on that unequal distribution and then tell us how you think it should be distributed and in particular from your point of view as a federation involved in construction where the money should be spent and on what sort of projects?
  (Mr Doran) As we have said in our submission, approximately 10 per cent of aggregates are sourced in Northern Ireland therefore broadly in equity 10 per cent of the Sustainability Fund, about £3.5 million, should be made available to the Province. If it is the case that government wants to improve the industry, both at large and particularly the quarries industries' approach to the environment, clearly the Quarry Products Association should sit down with government and find how that money can best be targeted on areas of the highest risk to the environment.

  89. Do you think part of that money and the sorts of projects that money would be spent on could be of benefit to the industry?
  (Mr Doran) I have not addressed my mind to what sort of projects might be addressed. I could not answer the question.


  90. Is there anything else you would like to say to us? There are no more questions.
  (Mr Doran) No, except to thank you again.

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed for coming. A transcript of what you have said will be sent to you for checking before we publish the evidence. Thank you very much.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 11 December 2001