28 February 2000
Gill warns Blair over climate levy

By FWi staff

NATIONAL Farmers Union leader Ben Gill has stepped up his campaign against the governments climate change levy, which he claims, could decimate Britains horticulture industry.

With the Budget only weeks away, Mr Gill has written to the Prime Minister warning that the energy tax will cost agriculture and horticulture 20 million a year and lead to the loss of 10,000 jobs.

The “green” levy is designed to curb global warming by penalising companies for releasing greenhouse gases

But the NFU argues that horticulture has done the most to become energy-efficient, and that growers plants take up harmful carbon dioxide and do not emit it to the atmosphere

To illustrate that horticulture takes its environmental responsibilities seriously, on Monday (28 February) Mr Gill visited Borden Hill Nurseries, in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, which has a state-of-the-art heat and power system.

Mr Gill said: “Its unbelievable that the government is going to drive away one of the sectors that is showing a high commitment to reducing emissions and utilising carbon dioxide by recycling it back to plants.

“At a time when the government is declaring a commitment to a competitive and dynamic rural economy, it is difficult to understand why it is pursuing a completely counter-productive strategy.”

NFU calls for a charge that is neutral to horticulture seem to have found more sympathy with the government in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, financial secretary to the Treasury Stephen Timms met NFU leaders to discuss alternative proposals to the “green” tax.

The 1 billion levy will deliver carbon savings of two million tonnes a year. High energy users will be given an 80% discount provided they sign up to energy-efficiency agreements.

Chancellor Gordon Brown has offered to consider reductions for other operations provided they meet strict criteria.

These include: a clear rationale; legal certainty; administrative simplicity; and consistency with EU state aid rules.