Conclusions and recommendations
91. We believe that the Government cannot justify
introducing the aggregates levy in Northern Ireland as an environmental
tax, when it will not reliably "deliver a more dynamic economy
and a cleaner environment",
but may well have entirely the opposite effect there. The theory
may be right, but the development and the implementation are wrong.
92. The Government's rationale in introducing
this tax into Northern Ireland is compromised: its research does
not withstand scrutiny either as a rationale for discouraging
aggregates extraction and encouraging recycling or within the
wider Northern Ireland context which was somehow totally overlooked.
93. We continue to maintain open minds as to
whether the aggregates industry will prove environmentally sustainable
in the long term. In Northern Ireland today, however, it provides
essential support to communities and to the wider project of regeneration
which is so important to the success of the peace process. The
arguments offered to us about the likely migration of the industry
and the consequent loss to communities close to the border are
compelling: this cannot be the end which the Government set out
94. We therefore recommend that the Government
postpone any introduction of the levy into Northern Ireland, until
a fully-informed decision has been reached as to its effects.
95. We further recommend that the formula for
allocating the Sustainability Fund be re-examined and the case
for regional fiscal neutrality be considered.
96. It would be wrong to introduce the levy
into Northern Ireland until these steps have been taken: if this
means deferral beyond 1 April 2002 and we believe a proper
process of consultation and research requires that it must
then so be it.
97. Given the clear failure by those developing
the tax to tackle the consequences for Northern Ireland at the
appropriate time we do not believe such special treatment to be
unreasonable. The development of a new, credible, package must
be better than implementation of a policy flawed with regard to
Northern Ireland and with the potential to undermine the Government's
environmental credentials and the current and future economy there.
98. The threat of implementation is already
having an impact upon Northern Ireland as contracts for work after
April 2002 are already being negotiated; we urge the Government
to give serious consideration to these arguments, and to make
a full statement of its plans at the earliest opportunity to end
the current uncertainty.