Trevor Lunn MLA said: “The importance of the quarry and aggregates industry is very starkly illustrated by the bare figures – average annual aggregates production is 25 million tons and the industry provides 3750 jobs and accounts for 3% of Northern Ireland’s GDP.
“The quarry industry is, quite literally, the foundation stone of the construction sector, and like the construction industry as a whole is suffering terribly as a result of the current recession.
“There is no doubt that Northern Ireland producers have been at an advantage over those in the UK since the introduction of the aggregates levy scheme in 2004.There is a valid reason for the difference in levy – the land boundary with the Republic of Ireland where no levy exists.
“I doubt that our advantageous position has affected the industry to any extent in the UK given the sea crossing involved and the higher costs of fuel, transport and therefore extraction in Northern Ireland.
“It is therefore disappointing that the existing derogation is under threat. The matter has obviously extreme consequences for Northern Ireland PLC. On present figures current levy payments to HMRC amount to around £8m. If we lost the derogation, that payment would be over £40m.
“Given that the government currently procures around 60% of construction work in Northern Ireland, around 11.5m tonnes of aggregates, the cost to the public purse will be in the region of £23m per year if the concession is removed.”