Motorists who drive gas-guzzling vehicles should pay up to £1,800 in road tax to counter the damage they do to the environment, an influential committee of MPs said today.
It also wants the government to raise taxes on air travel, and slash the 70mph speed limit on Britain’s motorways to bring down the amount of carbon dioxide given off by cars.
The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee welcomed the recent introduction of variable Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), which means that cars emitting the least carbon dioxide pay no road tax, while gas-guzzling 4x4s pay an increased rate of £210.
Road tax for 4x4s
But it said that the change didn’t go far enough and said the new high rate was not high enough to deter 4×4 drivers, who still pay less road tax as a proportion of the cost of their car than motorists who opt for cleaner cars.
The MPs urged Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander to look into a proposal to increase the top band of VED dramatically to £1,800, with lower bands at £300 intervals down to the least-polluting cars which would be tax-free.
The committee also criticised the Department for Transport for seeming to accept that little could be done to stem the increase in carbon dioxide emissions due to the rises in travel resulting from economic growth.
Air Passenger Duty
The committee also suggested that Air Passenger Duty could be charged per flight, rather than per passenger as at present, to encourage airlines to be more efficient in filling their services.
Committee chairman Tim Yeo said: ‘The Department for Transport has announced some important initiatives, but it needs urgently to accelerate its efforts: transport is the only sector of the UK economy in which carbon emissions have risen consistently since 1990. We are concerned that the department seems to have a fatalistic attitude which sees carbon-intensive activities and economic growth as going hand in hand.
‘The government should take much more decisive action to shift the balance of affordability in favour of trains, buses, and lower carbon cars and lorries. We strongly recommend that the existing differentials in Vehicle Exercise Duty are widened substantially. These changes could be introduced at once on a revenue-neutral basis, and would reward consumers for making greener choices.’
Friends of the Earth said the committee had produced a damning report on the government’s failure to tackle climate change through its transport policies.
Senior Transport Campaigner Tony Bosworth said: ‘Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander must make tackling climate change his top priority. This needs a root-and-branch review of transport policy, starting with plans for airport expansion and road building. Tinkering around the edges is no longer enough to tackle the greatest threat the world faces.’
Transport minister Stephen Ladyman said he would not rule out ‘doing more’ on vehicle taxes in the future, but he was not convinced raising rates would make people use more efficient cars.
He added: ‘Bear in mind, of course, that people who drive gas guzzling cars are already paying for a lot of extra fuel and all that fuel carries fuel duty on it. So they are already incurring substantial additional costs over the more efficient cars. In many cases those costs extend to thousands of pounds and it doesn’t put them off buying them.’