Aggregates Levy (Registration and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2001 and Aggregates Levy (General) Regulations 2002

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Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): I did not take part in the debates on this issue during consideration of the Finance Act 2001, but I represent an area of Leicestershire where many people are involved in quarrying, not least at a very large quarry called Croft. I support the Government's laudable intention to improve the environment, but I am very concerned because the Minister has not proved that the measure will not undermine jobs at Croft in Leicestershire and in the constituency of the hon. Member for Peterborough.

Mr. Lidington: My hon. Friend makes a good point. There is near universal support for the environmental objectives declared by the Government, but there is considerable scepticism about whether the measure will deliver those objectives, as well as concern about the complexity and ambiguity in the details of the aggregates levy.

Good points have been made about the list of exemptions. It seems odd, to put it mildly, that coastal defence will not be exempt but beach restoration will. That issue has application way beyond north-east Scotland. As the Minister says, the Government are

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continuing to reflect on the matter. I suppose that one always welcomes a certain amount of open-mindedness from Ministers, but it would be even more helpful to have a decision and some indication of what the Government are planning to do.

Mr. Boateng: I hear the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan rapidly disassociating himself from the remarks made by the hon. Member for Aylesbury. He knows the reality of these matters very well. When serious submissions are made, one reflects on them seriously. He is being mischievous. He knows that there have been detailed discussions with the industry about when the tax becomes payable and related points: it becomes payable when the aggregates are commercially exploited; that is one of the tax points that apply. It is purely fanciful to suggest that there is uncertainty about those issues that needs to be cleared up in Committee, just as it is to say that the detailed submissions of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan need to be dealt with here. The hon. Member for Aylesbury must not respond to the urgings of his hon. Friend hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan), who is a mixer in such matters—

The Chairman: Order. I believe that Mr. Lidington has the Floor.

Mr. Lidington: I think the Minister protests too much. The Government have told the Committee that they have been engaged in constant discussion with the industry and other interested parties for the best part of 12 months, yet they have been reduced to laying detailed regulations only six days before the measure starts to apply. Parliamentary consideration has been rushed in the extreme.

Because we object to the complexity and the unresolved ambiguity of the regulations, because we believe that the Government should have thought through their position on matters such as coastal defences and secondary aggregates before introducing this important new tax, and because both industry and Parliament needed more time to consider these matters properly before they became law, I invite the Committee to vote against the motion.

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Question put:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 6.

Division No. 1]

AYES
Banks, Mr. Tony Best, Mr. Harold Boateng, Mr. Paul Clark, Mrs. Helen
Roy, Mr. Frank Southworth, Helen Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry Wright, David

NOES
Heath, Mr. David Hoban, Mr. Mark Lidington, Mr. David
Luff, Mr. Peter Robathan, Mr. Andrew Salmond, Mr. Alex

Hoey, Kate NO VOTE

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,

    That the Committee has considered the Aggregates Levy (Registration and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2001 (S.I. 2001, No. 4027).

Aggregates Levy (General) Regulations 2002

Motion made, and Question put:—

    That the Committee has considered the Aggregates Levy (General) Regulations 2002 (S.I. 2002, No. 761).—[Mr. Lidington.]

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 6.

Division No. 2]

AYES
Banks, Mr. Tony Best, Mr. Harold Boateng, Mr. Paul Clark, Mrs. Helen
Roy, Mr. Frank Southworth, Helen Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry Wright, David

NOES
Heath, Mr. David Hoban, Mr. Mark Lidington, Mr. David
Luff, Mr. Peter Robathan, Mr. Andrew Salmond, Mr. Alex

Hoey, Kate NO VOTE

Question accordingly agreed to.

Committee rose at Six o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
O'Hara, Mr. Edward (Chairman)
Banks, Mr.
Best, Mr.
Boateng, Mr.
Clark, Mrs. Helen
Heath, Mr.
Hoban, Mr.
Hoey, Kate
Lidington, Mr.
Luff, Mr.
Robathan, Mr.
Roy, Mr.
Salmond, Mr.
Southworth, Helen
Sutcliffe, Mr.
Wright, David

 
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Prepared 29 April 2002