My hon. Friend might be better putting that question to the Economic Secretary, who has all the power of the Customs and Excise officialdom behind him. I am sure that my hon. Friend, having given notice of his interest in the matter, will be able to get a reply from him, and I am grateful for the support that my hon. Friend gives by implication to the amendments.
Amendment No. 256 would ensure that the levy was not payable on waste by-products. Secondary aggregates are an unavoidable by-product of the extraction of industrial grade aggregates. For example, it can take up to six tonnes of throughput to achieve one tonne of industrial-grade limestone. Quarries must sell their secondary aggregates at the market price, often less than £1 per tonne, to maintain operating space within quarries and avoid unsightly spoil heaps. Obviously, there is a big contrast between the treatment of waste by-products coming from the quarrying of aggregate and the way in which slate waste is being treated, because disused slate quarries are being opened up in order to provide a new source of what is called virgin aggregate. The Economic Secretary has referred to the enormous investment made by McAlpine, which will probably damage the environment due to the transportation of slate waste over hundreds of miles of the English countryside in order to avoid paying the aggregates tax.
Surely, if the waste from slate is exempt from the levy because it is a waste by-product, the waste from
the production of aggregate and limestone should also be exempt so that such waste does not pile up in great spoil heaps throughout the country, which is likely under the present regime. There should be a proper incentive for the producers of that waste to dispose of it in the marketplace at a price that the market can bear. If the market price is less than £1 a tonne and has to compete with slate waste, the imposition of a levy of £1.60 per tonne plus VAT would result in the accumulation of large tips of waste aggregate. I hope that the amendment will find favour with the Government. Can anyone be in favour of fiscal incentives to establish spoil heaps in the countryside where they do not exist at the moment?