Ulster Unionist MLAs have successfully carried an amendment regarding the proposed tax on single use carrier bags.
Speaking during the Stormont debate, East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs Jnr said:
“It is important that we focus on the environmental aspect of the purpose behind the levy. Originally, there was talk about a green new deal but that has gone by the wayside. No funding from this issue will go towards the green new deal as there is no proposal for a green new deal at present. In any case, I am concerned about the economics and the figures that are coming out. The administrative costs will be £820,000 a year. Surely, we must look at that very carefully to see how we can better manage such a proposal so that we are not simply raising money for more bureaucratic systems.
Also, on the issue of administration, I have a concern about the undue burden that could be placed on smaller corner shops. Big supermarkets can reprogram their tills relatively efficiently and produce an extra button for this. However, what will happen to the small guy who is already working very long hours to survive in business against such large competition? It is very important that we do not introduce a system that results in more corner shops being closed. I suggest, for instance, that we look at introducing some thresholds if we cannot charge at source.”
The UUP Amendment as adopted reads:
“That this Assembly recognises that the intention of a charge on single-use carrier bags is to reduce bag consumption and the impact on the environment; and calls on the Minister of the Environment to clarify the scope and type of carrier bags that will be subject to charging and to confirm that the list of exemptions will include environmentally friendly reusable bags; and further calls on the Minister to take into consideration the concerns of the retail trade, so that the method of collecting the charge, the size of the charge and the point at which the charge is collected are all taken into account.”