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QPA boss takes on red tape and aggies levy

Lynda Thompson became chairwoman of the Quarry Products Association last week. She talks to Joanna Booth

You are the first female chairman of the QPA. Is the industry changing its attitude to women?

Definitely. Women are more accepted than when I joined the industry in the late '80s. It was fine to start with because we were mainly dealing with family firms like mine, Bucbricks, but when we started working with larger companies I came up against people who weren't used to working with women.

You are also the first private company owner to be chairman of the QPA - does this make a difference?

Without a doubt.My experience is different to someone from a major company - it's more hands-on. I have an understanding of grass roots issues.

What is the most important issue you aim to address?

As an industry we're massively under-appreciated.We need to make Government and the public understand what we do and why we do it. Certain parts of the Government understand our importance but it's difficult to get through to them as a whole.We get support from one arm and then clobbered by another.

Do you think the industry is over-legislated?

Yes.With legislation coming in from Government and Europe there's too much of it.We're better for some of it but not all. It's complicated and prescriptive and sometimes the way European legislation is interpreted is damaging. It's also as if they sneak things up on you - the industry has to spend so much time and money keeping an eye out for what's happening.

Does the Government support the aggregate industry enough?

There's an increase in paperwork for every industry but I feel we're unfairly punished.

When you have to deal with so many departments it accumulates. It should be possible to combine and lighten the load.

There was a commitment five years ago to a large infrastructure spend and it's not being brought on quickly enough.

Why do you think the aggies levy should be scrapped?

If people want houses, roads, schools and the Olympics they need something to build it with. It has been shown to be ineffective as an environmental tax.The industry is already using as much recycled aggregate as is available.

Are you angry that barely 1 per cent of aggregates tax revenue is being pumped back into quarrying areas?

It goes back to another purpose of the tax, which was to benefit the local environment. If we can't scrap the tax we'll be campaigning to change how much is spent in quarrying communities.