Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220
WEDNESDAY 14 NOVEMBER 2001
220. So what level of resources would they have
to put in?
(Mr Smyth) It would probably be disproportionate.
Ralph, can you comment?
(Mr Clarke) We are talking of 500 miles of land border.
They are completely stretched trying to follow up on fuel and
they've been very unsuccessful, perhaps picking up only 4 per
cent or 5 per cent of them. That means a cost to the Exchequer
of £300 million, £200 million of which goes to the southern
221. I am reluctant ever to introduce any discussion
of the Barnett formula into any debate where we do not have 48
hours ahead of us. However, the Construction Employers Federation
and the Friends of the Earth have both argued for a recasting
of sustainability funds and obviously for a large proportion of
the fund to be distributed to Northern Ireland. Are you collectively
today satisfied with the proposed distribution of the sustainability
(Mr Smyth) No.
222. I had one shake of the headtwo head
(Mr Clarke) Clearly not is the unanimous answer. The
whole financial impact of the taxwe talked about £35
million going out in terms of £1.60 x 22 million tonnes and
we were getting £7 million back from national insurance contributions.
Mr Robinson's budget alone will be impacted by £8 million
according to a note that I read last week. That is vastly unfair.
The sustainability of getting £1 million back in terms of
per head of population instead of the 10 per cent that we are
contributing is unfair and disproportionate to Northern Ireland.
223. How much do we get back through the national
(Mr Clarke) I think the estimate was £7 million.
224. £7 million.
(Mr Clarke) Yes. Six hundred thousand people times
225. That is interesting because I asked this
question of QPA and received a letter which stated that it was
only half a million pounds.
(Mr Clarke) That may have been in relation to the
sustainability fund where the sums are very modest.
(Mr Fidgett) The £12 figure is not contested,
so that would support your contention as a simple multiplication.
226. I want to come back to something that Mr
Fidgett said to me a few moments ago. I cannot recall the CBI
ever arguing for more regulation. I wondered on that basis whether
you had made any effort to cost the regulations you are advocating.
(Mr Fidgett) The regulations already exist in both
planning laws that apply throughout the UK, with some slight differences
in Northern Ireland but the same principles apply. The policies
and law that influence how planning permissions and conditions
attached to them are granted already exist and are capable of
being reviewed, and are constantly reviewed by Government, and
increasingly by the Assembly. From that point of view, that is
part of life that the CBI accepts. We do not necessarily argue
for more regulations; it is perhaps unique so worth commenting
on in that sense. But in that case it is a direct way of dealing
with the externalities that have been identified. We are subject
to those regulations at the moment; we are quite happy to debate
whether they are entirely appropriate, are tight enough, or should
be altered in whatever way. That can be done on the basis of sound
science and technical merit and we can happily engage in those
sorts of discussions. Taxes would be preferred only if they could
be as targeted and effective as regulations but without the additional
bureaucracy that goes with them. Here that is far from being the
227. You climbed out of that rather nicely.
(Mr Smyth) I did not hear the word "more"
coming into it. He did talk about regulations and my colleague
on my left spoke of problems in that we do not have enforcement
of existing regulations and that having enforcement would go a
long way towards meeting overall environmental objectives.
228. May I come back on the national insurance
point? The response from the Construction Employers Federation
was: employment and construction industries 34,500; the quarrying
sector 5,600, giving a total of 40,100. Average earnings were
£13,465. It gives various reductions. Those figures multiplied
by 0.1 per cent rebates give a total rebate of £39, 947.
How do you square that with the figure that you gave?
(Mr Smyth) We took the whole working population in
Northern Ireland of 695,000.
229. Would it not have been better in this instance
to take only your particular industry?
(Mr Fidgett) Yes. It is comparing apples and pears
in that sense. That is part of the key point that whilst the tax
itself affects a particular part of the industry, the national
insurance discount applies more generally, therefore it has a
Chairman: Gentlemen, thank you very much. That
has been very helpful. We shall send you a copy of the transcript
of the draft evidence. Thank you very much for coming and helping
us with our inquiry.