Statement by TUV leader Jim Allister:
“On Thursday of last week I tabled amendments which were due to be debated today to remove paper bags from the ambit of the Carrier Bag Bill.
“This morning the Environment Minister, Mark Durkin, declined to move the Consideration Stage of the Bill due to “the policy implications” of my amendments.
“The mischief to which the carrier bag tax was supposed to be addressed is the pollution of plastic bags. So why were any paper bags, which are biodegradable, ever included in the first place? Already in my constituency jobs have been lost among suppliers and in Bangor a supply company collapsed in consequence of the bag tax. Including paper bags is an unnecessary exercise in over legislating. Paper bags are wholly biodegradable and thus, unlike plastic bags, cause no long term damage to the environment. They deserve to be treated differently and shoppers afforded the right to accept from retailers paper bags in which to carry their purchases.
“These are points which we pressed strongly on the minister on Thursday of last week when I brought the owner of a Ballymena supply company to meet him. By exempting paper bags we could significantly limit the damage being done to suppliers in the bag industry and at the same time help consumers by restoring to them the right to carry away their purchases in biodegradable paper bags. The proposed legislation simply goes too far and takes liberties under the guise of dealing with the acknowledged menace of plastic bags.
“The Minister’s decision to pull the Bill shows that he is unsure of obtaining sufficient support to defeat my amendments. I would therefore encourage ordinary members of the public to lobby their local MLAs to ensure that we no longer have to pay this unjust tax on paper bags, something which incidentally is not the case in the Republic.”