Environment minister to increase bag levy to 10p

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The Carrier Bags Bill completed its second stage, on 11 June 2013.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood said the initial carrier bags levy, introduced in April 2013, had been well-received.

He said he now intended to raise the levy from five pence to ten pence per bag.

The minister explained that the bill would allow the levy to be applied to the "cheaper version of reusable bags" some of which were available for as little as five pence.

These cheap, reusable bags were thicker, heavier and took longer to disintegrate than single-use bags.

Anna Lo of Alliance welcomed the bill on behalf of the Environment Committee, which she chairs.

Speaking for herself, Ms Lo said she had some doubts, and that it might be difficult to justify to the public charging a levy for the cheaper reusable bags.

The DUP's Simon Hamilton said he had been doubtful about the original carrier bags bill when it was passed at the end of the previous Assembly, but that it had proved to be a success.

"I think I could become evangelical about the Carrier Bags Bill," he said.

He said there were still issues that the department would need to deal with as the new bill progressed.

"This is a natural extension from where we are with the current levy," Mr Hamilton said.

Cathal Boylan of Sinn Fein also welcomed the bill.

"I think the public have embraced this," he said, although he added that some people were buying plastic bags cheaply on the internet.

Ulster Unionist Tom Elliott said this was the second phase of plastic bags legislation.

"How many more phases will we have?" he asked.

Jim Wells of the DUP backed the bill, and he welcomed "the Damascus Road conversion" of his party colleague, Simon Hamilton.

The bill passed its second reading on an oral vote.

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