Supplementary memorandum submitted by
Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland
Further to your letter of 21 November 2001 please
find below additional information for the Northern Ireland Affairs
Committee. On question 131 of the inquiry, I have enclosed extracts
from, "Study on Environmental Taxes and Charges in the EU",
ECOTEC in association with CESAM, CLM, University of Gotheenburg,
UCD and IEEP (CR), which details the situation in Denmark
In this letter Friends of the Earth will expand
on and claify several points made to the Northern Ireland Affairs
Committee on the breakdown of employment figures in the industry,
on employment opportunities created by the tax, on the disproportionate
consumption of aggregates in Northern Ireland and on the potential
for contraction of the industry.
Questions 108 to 113 dealt with the breakdown
of employment figures in the industry in Northern Ireland. There
was some confusion about this and evidence given by the Quarry
Products Association in a previous session didn't match that of
Friends of the Earth. Hopefully the table below clarifies this.
|Table taken from "Aggregate Tax" Quarry Products Association2001.
As can be seen from the table, 3,033 jobs, 54 per cent, are
associated with quarries and pits. Friends of the Earth believe
that these jobs are not at risk as a consequence of the border
because imported aggregates will be taxed at the same rate as
locally produced aggregates. The Quarry Products Association argue
that up to 4,000 jobs are at risk as a direct consequence of the
border. We believe, however, that only those jobs associated with
the production of value-added goods, some 46 per cent, within
the 20-25 mile zone cited by the QPA are potentially at risk.
This amounts to about 1,840 jobs and can be considered the worst
case scenario. It is important, therefore, that research is carried
out as soon as possible to ascertain the real effects of the border
and separate these effects from those of tax alone.
Friends of the Earth have explained, both in our written
and oral evidence, how the Aggregates Levy can help in the creation
of up to 6,000 sustainable jobs. A sustainable alternative for
farmers, who have turned to quarrying for a second income, is
to convert to organic, or some other low input production, agri-environment
schemes and invest in producer retailing. These are labour intensive
and will result in a net gain in employment.
European studies show that organic farms employ anywhere
from 10 to 50 per cent more labour than conventional farms ("Tomorrow's
World", McLaren, Bullock and Yousuf, Friends of the Earth1998).
Given that Northern Ireland has not gone completely down the intensive
farming road the figure here could be 20 per cent. So, for example,
if a modest target of 5 per cent organic production is attained
this could produce up to 600 jobs. Margaret Beckett, the Secretary
of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has said
she would like to see the level of organic production rise to
about 10 per cent potentially creating some 1,200 jobs. If, however,
a target of 30 per cent (proposed in the Organic Food and Farming
Targets Bill for England and Wales) was reached in Northern Ireland,
this could produce about 3,600 new jobs. This would enable farmers
and rural communities to get back to the core business of farming
and deserves increased financial support from government.
Furthermore, demand for organic food is growing at a rate
of 40 per cent each year but 70 per cent of the organic food bought
in the UK is imported. Northern Ireland will import an even higher
percentage. Demand far exceeds supply and a market clearly exists.
The farmers' market in Belfast is still quite new but there
are now 240 in the UK with an annual turnover of £65 million.
Experience in the USA where farmers' markets have been flourishing
for 15 years or more suggest they have an even greater potential
for job creation and economic growth. Farmers' markets in the
state of Georgia have a multiplier effect of 2.66 in the local
economy. This means every dollar spent in the farmers' markets
generates $2.66 in knock-on trade. Ontario's 127 farmers' markets
directly employ 24,000 people ("The Economic Benefits of
Farmers Markets", Friends of the Earth2001). With
a modest target of one farmers' market in each county, plus Belfast,
Northern Ireland could see the creation of almost 1,400 jobs.
Current expenditure in Northern Ireland on agri-environment
schemes amounts to about £7.5 million or just over 3 per
cent up take. This compares with spending on similar schemes in
the Republic of Ireland of over £200 million. Average payments
to farmers is £5,469 per year ("Money Makes the Countryside
Go Round", WWF2000). Agri-environment schemes will
not provide the sole income for farmers but they are a valuable
Approximately 10,000 people, or 2 per cent of the Northern
Ireland workforce, are employed in tourism. This compares with
6 per cent in the Republic of Ireland and 8 per cent in Scotland
("Tourism in Northern Ireland, A development Strategy 1994-2000",
NITB1994). Both these regions have similar landscapes,
climates and population densities and have strong historical and
cultural links. There is clearly enormous potential for growth
in sustainable tourism. There are several rural tourism initiatives
which can be studied as examples of best practice such as the
Ring of Gullion Rural Tourism Group and Fermanagh Tourism Strategic
It is possible to significantly reduce our use of aggregates
without adversely affecting our needs. Higher building densities
on brown field sites and renovation of Northern Ireland's 35,000
empty properties is more materials efficient. Such practices enable
Denmark to achieve a recycling rate of 80 per cent for all construction
waste and there is no reason why a similar level can't be achieved
in Northern Ireland.
There are also many viable alternatives to aggregates. For
example, timber construction is cheap, energy efficient and has
a negligible environmental impact if the plantations are managed
properly. Furthermore, the materials can be grown locally thereby
reducing transportation costs and providing a valuable income.
If enough mixed semi-natural broad-leaved woodland was planted
and managed for timber production to replace the importation of
tropical hardwoods then somewhere in the region of 100-200 jobs
would be created in woodland management.
Encouraging labour intensive practices through the Aggregates
Levy, such as recycling of builders waste for aggregates and salvaging
for re-use could result in a net increase in employment. An average
salvage yard directly employs 10-15 people. There are already
a number of salvage yards in Northern Ireland catering to home
owners who want original bricks, slates, tiles and timber. Companies
such as Power Screen International Ltd have established themselves
as leaders in crushing construction waste for secondary aggregates.
This is a very lucrative market with room for expansion if the
right economic signals are sent out.
Northern Ireland has about 3 per cent of the UK population
but aggregate production runs at about 10 per cent of the UK total.
In Northern Ireland we are using over three times more aggregate,
per person, than the rest of the UK. Furthermore Northern Ireland
has a higher per capita use of cement than anywhere else in Europe.
We simply can't continue to use aggregates in this wasteful and
unsustainable way. Northern Ireland needs to take a serious look
at the way we use resources such as aggregates. Perhaps Northern
Ireland is more in need of the Aggregates Levy than Great Britain.
It has been stated that the average cost of aggregates in
Northern Ireland is £1.60 per tonne compared to £6.50
in Great Britain. This is because the market is over subscribed
and competition is extremely high. According to the QPA there
are few quarries more than five miles from another. Clearly there
is room for the industry to contract. Indeed, Friends of the Earth
argue that this is imperative.
Friends of the Earth welcome the announcement by the Chancellor,
Gordon Brown, to fully implement the levy as of April 2003. We
believe the one year exemption on value added goods should be
used by the Government to support quarry operators who wish to
invest in sustainable enterprises and that research similar to
that carried out by DETR in 1998 should be commissioned for Northern
Ireland. Finally we reiterate our call for a similar measure in
the Republic of Ireland and for timely contact between the two
treasuries on the subject.
27 November 2001