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Tuesday, 29 February, 2000, 13:54 GMT
MPs criticise 'green tax failures'

Emission targets: MPs say the targets are confused
Chancellor Gordon Brown's tax changes to create a greener UK have been criticised by MPs as a "tax muddle" which is failing to place the environment at the heart of government policy.

Members of the all-party Environmental Audit Committee said that Mr Brown's plans to turn his 1999 pre-Budget tax proposals on pesticides, climate change and quarrying into action had resulted in confusion.

The MPs said that there was a major question mark over the government's green commitments after the Financial Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Timms announced last month that the pesticides tax was being dropped in the short term.

Crop spraying: MPs demand fertiliser tax
The committee said that the government still needed to introduce a pesticides tax to cut down on the amount of chemical run-off into rivers and streams, consequently polluting water and killing river life.

Attacking the dropping of the proposed legislation, the MPs said that they had been left "astonished and disappointed".

"After almost two years of research, the 1999 Budget announced the abandonment of work on charges for sources of water pollution," said the committee's report.

"With the dropping of a pesticides tax, dormant proposals for taxing fertiliser use many also fall off the agenda.

"The Government's plans to implement the "polluter pays" principle in a major area of environmental concern - water resources - therefore seems to have come to nothing.

"We regard this as a significant failure in its commitment to place the environment at the heart of government and to pursue sustainable development."

Quarrying criticised

The committee also criticised the Government's approach to an aggregates tax to help protect landscapes from quarrying, saying that it could be used to help encourage recycling.

1999: Government pledged 'greenest ever' budget
On the climate change levy to reduce carbon dioxide levels, the report warned that it was unclear how the tax would relate to other policies.

It was difficult to assess what part it would play in meeting the government's own target of a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

Committee chairman John Horam MP said: "Budget 1999 was the greenest ever but the follow-through has been unsatisfactory.

"Government has been uncertain about a pesticide tax; one minute announcing it dropped and the next that it remains a long-term possibility.

"It has been unclear about the aim of an aggregates tax and seems unable to tell the Quarry Products Association what is wrong with its voluntary scheme.

"Negotiations with industry over the Climate Change Levy appear bogged down in the detail, creating confusion and the lack of a framework to be provided by a climate change programme, has been a real barrier to independent assessment.

"Overall, consultation research and consensus-building have been inconsistent casting doubt on the Government's stated ommitment to environmental tax reform."

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09 Mar 99 |  NEWS
A greener shade of Brown
19 Jan 99 |  UK Politics
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