Northern Ireland

Carrier bag levy bill passes final assembly stage

A bill to extend the carrier bag levy to include some reusable bags has passed its final stage in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The extended levy will include reusable bags with a retail cost of up to 20p.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said that since the levy on disposable bags had been introduced there had been an increase in sales of cheaper reusable bags.

He said he did not want to see those bags "becoming the new disposable bag".

Strategy

Referring to arguments put forward by members during the passage of the bill calling for the exclusion of paper bags, Mr Durkan said paper bags were already subject to the levy under the original legislation.

Anna Lo, Alliance, who chairs the environment committee, said that members had been concerned that the original proposal to introduce the extended levy from April 2014 was too soon.

This had been addressed by an amendment that postponed the introduction until January 2015 to allow for a public information campaign.

Pam Cameron, DUP, said she supported the bill as "an example of good devolved government".

Cathal Boylan, Sinn Féin, also supported the bill and said a good communications strategy was now needed to prepare the public for the change.

Tom Elliott, Ulster Unionist, said he did not think the passage of the bill was the end of this kind of legislation.

"I do see much more coming this way," he said.

The bill was passed on a cross-community vote.