Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Fast-track for bag tax plan slammed

DUP Environment Minister Edwin Poots has said further discussions will take place in the Assembly over the bill

An Assembly decision to fast-track legislation on a plastic bag levy for Northern Ireland has been criticised by retailers.

The plan for a potential 15p charge for plastic bags forms part of the budget blueprint agreed by the DUP and Sinn Fein.

But while the UUP, SDLP and a retail group objected to the decision to grant the bill accelerated passage at Stormont, this was rejected by the MLA responsible for the legislation who said it would protect the environment and create revenue.

Sinn Fein's Daithi McKay said similar legislation had been successful in the Republic, where he said government surveys showed it had benefited the public and the business community.

But Glyn Roberts of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association expressed concerns.

He said: "I am very disappointed that the Assembly has decided to rush this legislation in the way that it has. There should have been proper scrutiny. Whilst we support the objective of reducing the plastic in landfill, we are very concerned at how the Assembly has handled this.

"This is the assembly's first new tax. To introduce it without adequate scrutiny, I think, is a dangerous precedent."

But the Green Party's MLA Brian Wilson said he believed the levy would have a positive impact on the economy and the environment. He said the levy in the Republic saw consumers use 1.3 billion fewer plastic bags each year.

Representatives from the UUP said they would prefer to see the measure delayed until after the May Assembly election.

DUP Environment Minister Edwin Poots cited figures showing a drop in the amount of plastic bags used by consumers and he said this signalled a desire among the public to see action on the issue. He said there would be further discussion in the Assembly on the bill tabled by Mr McKay and said there was enough time to deal with the concerns being raised.

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