Clause 127 - Aggregates levy: amendments to provisions exempting spoil etc

Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 25th June 2002.

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Photo of John Healey John Healey The Economic Secretary to the Treasury 10:45 am, 25th June 2002

I shall deal with amendments Nos. 255 and 256 and the several points raised by the hon. Gentlemen, and in so doing explain the basis of clause 127 more generally for the Committee.

Amendment No. 255 is designed to tax aggregate by its dried weight, as the hon. Member for Christchurch described, even though that is not how it is normally supplied by the industry to its customers. Indeed, there are questions concerning how practicable and possible it would be to establish the moisture content for each consignment of aggregate in order to discount the naturally occurring water weight from the weight of the aggregate and therefore levy the tax in the way that the hon. Gentleman advocates. There is a practical question at stake.

However, more fundamentally, there is no case for the amendment because the current tax treatment of naturally occurring water, or any other substance that occurs naturally with the aggregate, reflects the practice in the industry. The industry sells by the tonne whether the aggregate is wet or dry. To move

away from that practice would increase complexity and undoubtedly result in increased compliance costs for the industry. To be clear, the tax is not on natural water, but on the weight of aggregate, of which naturally occurring water is an indivisible part. If I may say so to the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), water that is not rainwater or naturally occurring water in the aggregate but, perhaps, brine, would be treated in the same way and weighed as part of the total aggregate load on which the levy would be payable.

In summary, I urge the Committee to consider that amendment No. 255 does not recognise commercial practice, where suppliers sell a tonne of aggregate, wet or dry. It would introduce complexity into the process and inevitably add to compliance costs for the industry itself.