HC Deb 27 July 1998 vol 317 cc8-9W
Mr. Levitt

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what proposals his Department has to improve the environmental performance of the quarrying industry. [52051]

Mr. Caborn

The quarrying industry itself has an essential part to play in improving its environmental performance and demonstrating its commitment to sustainable development in its current operations and in framing proposals for new or extended quarries. It is for planning authorities to determine individual application, attaching appropriate conditions, within the framework of national planning policy and guidance issued by my right, hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions. The Department commissions research and issues guidance on a range of issues associated with minerals extraction eg noise, dust, traffic and blasting to ensure that new planning permissions are implemented and operated in accordance with the latest standards. In addition, legislative procedures and guidance are in place to ensure the updating of old mineral permissions to modern standards.

Looking ahead, the Department is proposing further research in the environmental costs and benefits of quarrying in order to inform the decision to be taken by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on whether or not to introduce an aggregates tax. This would benefit the environment by reducing the demand for new materials and encouraging the use of recycled materials and quarrying waste. The position on the tax remains exactly as I made clear at a meeting I had with the Quarry Products Association on 29 April and at their seminar on 12 May. There are two options. Either the Government proceed to introduce a tax—subject always to the discretion my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has in matters of taxation—or they find that the industry collectively can offer a deliverable package of alternative measures which will secure equivalent or better environmental benefits when taken in the round.