4x4 drivers tax warningPossible tax-rise for 'irresponsible' 4x4 drivers

27 February 2006

Motorists drive gas-guzzling 4x4 cars may be hit with higher taxes because of the environmental damage caused by the cars' high emmissions.

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks, who has responsibility for cutting the UK's carbon emissions, has accused drivers of 4X4 cars - also known as 'Chelsea tractors' - of `crass irresponsibility', according to a report today.

The article, in The Times newspaper, says that the government is now considering measures to persuade motorists to opt for vehicles which cause less damage to the environment.

About 187,000 4X4s were sold in the UK last year. The off-roaders are designed to cope with rural conditions, but many are used in cities.

'Crass irresponsibility'

Mr Wicks told The Times newspaper: 'There is crass irresponsibility in some of the larger monstrosities [that] people drive around suburbia and in London. We have to move against this kind of thing.'

According to The Times, the government is considering an increase to GBP 200 in the price of a tax disc for cars which produce more than 250g of carbon dioxide per kilometre. Currently, drivers of cars producing more than 185g of carbon dioxide pay GBP 165.

Mr Wicks also suggested that there should be incentives for manufacturers to switch to `greener' technology, such as the Toyota Prius's hybrid system which combines a petrol-driven engine with an electric motor.

He said he was 'disappointed' that British and European manufacturers had not followed the lead of the Japanese.

Step-change

'Given the very demanding carbon dioxide cuts we must make, we are going to need more than just a series of marginal changes. We are going to need a step-change. We will have to ask: "Is it environmentally responsible to be producing cars which are a serious part of the problem?" There will come a time when it will be irresponsible for those to be on sale.'

The UK has a target of cutting CO2 emissions by 60 per cent by 2050.

A spokesman for the Treasury, which sets the level of the tax disc, would not confirm whether there would be in an increase in tax for 'gas-guzzling' cars. But he admitted the issue was under review and said that one purpose of the tax was to ensure motorists understood the environmental impact of the cars they bought.