Letter: Pitfalls of a landfill tax

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The Independent Online
From Mr Denis MacShane, MP

Sir: Hamish McRae is right to insist that fiscally penalising those who abuse the environment is the next evolution in our tax system ("We're crying too much over spilt oil", 23 February). Alas, the Government's new landfill tax, despite its greenish title, may not be the way forward.

Local authorities and companies like British Steel, which are keen to clean up contaminated land, are now faced with multi-million pound bills as they have to pay a tax on each shovel of earth they dispose of. Unbelievably, they will be penalised, instead of rewarded, for their work to improve the environment.

The main problem is that the landfill tax has been devised by the Treasury more as a source of new revenue, while the Department of the Environment has refused to tackle the problem at source, instead hoping that a tax at the end of the pollution chain will alter behaviour.

Far better would be a market-based solution, making the creation and disposal of packaging significantly more expensive. This would make it worthwhile for everyone in the packaging chain to minimise, re-use, collect and recycle packaging, including the consumer. That is the way modern states in Europe are tackling the problem.

Yours truly,

Denis MacShane

MP for Rotherham (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1