SDLP Leader and South Down MP Margaret Ritchie today met with the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Justine Greening, to express concerns over the removal of the Aggregates Levy Credit Scheme in Northern Ireland.
Ms Ritchie said, “The Minister expressed sympathy with our situation, reiterating that the government still support this scheme and are aware of the unique position that our companies face in competing with firms from across the border that are not subject to the fee.
“Ms Greening indicated that there would be enabling provisions in the upcoming Finance Bill to ensure that if a new Credit Scheme is agreed with Europe it could implemented as quickly as possible.
“I highlighted the financial stress that the current situation has put on companies such as Quinn, who employ thousands of people in Fermanagh.
“However, it was made clear that the distinct reality remains that there is unlikely to be any change to the current situation before the European Commission completes its review later in the year. I would urge the Northern Ireland Executive to take action in the interim period in order to support the industry which has been left in a position of great uncertainty.
“I intend to continue a dialogue with the Minister on this vital issue for our quarrying and construction industry, which already face serious difficulties in the economic downturn.
“I also raised the issue of the current high price of fuel asking if the Minister would incorporate Northern Ireland into the upcoming pilot project to lower the fuel price in certain rural areas across the UK.
“The Minister confirmed that the Government planned to introduce a pilot project to reduce fuel prices in certain areas. She undertook to give full consideration to my proposal to include Northern Ireland in any such provisions. Any move in this direction would be most welcome given the spiralling cost of fuel that is facing motorists.”