MLAs vote to keep charge on paper bags

Platic bag charges are here to stay.
Platic bag charges are here to stay.

A rare joint front by Jim Allister and the DUP yesterday failed to exempt all paper bags from the ‘bag tax’.

Mr Allister told the Assembly that the original intent of the legislation had been to reduce the visual and environmental pollution of plastic carrier bags which “have been a blight on our environment and community”.

However, he said that paper bags were entirely different in that they would rapidly rot down.

Referring to the Republic’s legislation, which only taxes plastic bags, Mr Allister chided SDLP environment minister Mark H Durkan for diverging from Dublin and added: “For once, I can say to the House that I think the Republic of Ireland has got it right.” He said that Mr Durkan’s proposal could mean that a child buying a 10p mix of sweets could have to pay an extra 5p for a bag.

The DUP’s Peter Weir agreed, arguing that there were anomalies caused by the current partial exemption on paper bags and that the easiest way to eliminate those anomalies was to exempt all biodegradable bags from the tax.

He said that his party’s amendments were not an attack on the concept of charging for plastic bags and acknowledged that there had been benefits from the bag tax. Opposition from the SDLP, Sinn Fein, Alliance Party and UUP saw the DUP and TUV amendments fail.