UK Government backs down on pesticides tax in favour of voluntary reductions

The UK Government will not introduce a pesticides tax in the next Budget, but will instead rely on voluntary action by the agrochemicals industry to minimise the environmental impact of pesticides.

Speaking at the National Farmers Union’s Annual Meeting in London, Tony Blair said the Chancellor will not proceed with the introduction of a pesticides tax in the Budget, subject to further discussions.

He welcomed proposals brought forward by the British Agrochemicals Association which, he said, would provide a basis for discussing with the industry and other interested parties what form a partnership approach might take.

In a press statement coinciding with the PM’s announcement, Stephen Timms, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said the Government believed that a voluntary approach had the potential to improve efforts to minimise the use of pesticide consistent with adequate crop protection.

The Soil Association expressed disappointment at the news. “We knew this was going to happen, because the National Farmers Union has been putting huge pressure on the Government not to increase costs to agriculture,” a spokesperson told edie. “But the agrochemicals companies have a role in this too. It actually costs £120 million a year to clean pesticides from the water supply, so shouldn’t some of those costs be passed on to the people who cause the contamination in the first place?”

Chancellor Gordon Brown’s Pre-Budget Report stated a tax on the use of pesticides could be a useful tool in addressing the environmental impacts of pesticides. At the time, the Government said it would consult with the agrochemical industry on whether its objectives could be achieved through a partnership approach between Government and industry. Since then the British agrochemicals industry has come forward with proposals.

Welcoming the announcement, BAA’s Director General Dr Anne Buckenham said: “We are delighted the Government has dropped its ideas for a tax. We have argued all along that it would not be effective and that it would be gravely damaging to the farming industry. We look forward to working with Government to optimise the use of our products to ensure they have the least possible impact on the environment.”

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