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Monday, May 20, 2024
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Think tank’s woke driving plans are the road to ruin

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A COUPLE of weeks ago the Centre for Policy Studies produced a ‘briefing note’ on ‘The Future of Driving’. It will be manna for woke followers of the anti-car lobbies already firmly entrenched in government departments.

The report recommends a ‘pay as you drive’ scheme for Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs). This is to be the only form of motoring taxation for those vehicles. Charged a flat rate for every mile driven, they’d pay (you have guessed it already) significantly less than their petrol and diesel counterparts. Everyone would receive a set allocation of tax-free miles every year and, in a kindly nod to farmers and country folk, ‘the allocation would be higher for those living in remote areas with fewer transport alternatives’.

All cuddly and constructive on the surface, this latest CPS report barely disguises its underlying anti-driver policies and the brainwashed acceptance that electric vehicles (EVs) will rule our road transport choices. Yes, the CPS is right about seeking fairer taxation, but this set of recommendations fails to address the core issue that fossil-fuelled technology is still the most sensible, reliable and tax-efficient way for decades to come.

It fails to recognise that EVs from cradle to grave are more polluting than the internal combustion engine. It fails to understand that our air quality has never been better. It ignores the fact that its road charging scheme stinks of Big Brother technology and the Government’s blatant and ever more comprehensive push to control our private lives.  

The report did not surprise me. I was invited recently to present at a CPS event on the future of biofuels, and what struck me was how devoid they were of independent creative thought – as though they were at the Government’s beck and call to espouse the Tories’ less than creative but punitive tax policies. The anti-driver rhetoric round the table was profound, most of those attending naively adhering to Government policies that hit motorists so unfairly. I found myself as the only (token) fossil fuel advocate there, clearly devoid of environmental sensitivity, being ‘opposed’ by the predominantly green-supporting attendees.

These London-centric academics’ idea that zero-emission vehicles should be charged a flat rate for every mile they drive shows no understanding at all of the fact that road charging is loathed by drivers. I can just see Transport Minister Mark Harper and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt licking their lips that the CPS recommend road charging as the easiest way to continue to keep drivers as their perennial cash cows. (Fuel for thought: they annually supply the fifth-largest tax income to the Treasury.)

The CPS report goes on to describe a variety of technological options which could be used to implement such a scheme, ranging from low-tech (submitting your mileage manually) through mid-tech (an on-board device that transmits mileage automatically) to high-tech (GPS tracking). How they would set the various allocations of tax-free miles every year, or how that is going to be managed, they don’t say. One to keep the civil service jobsworths occupied. 

Why not, instead of focusing on the green-worshipped subsidised EV as the only choice of road transport, commercially encourage other clean fuel technologies to include new Euro 7 and 8 development standards? That in itself would allow the much-loathed un-consulted diesel and petrol 2030 new car sales ban to be dumped, thus preventing a predicted economic catastrophe taking place.

Here is what they should have recommended.

·         That the Government immediately remove the threat of the 2030 ban on the sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles. (A ban which will cost at least five times any alleged environmental gains. The overall environmental benefits, which are rather lower than might be assumed in part due to approximately 50 per cent of any reductions in emissions from usage, are likely to be offset by increased emissions in EV production.)

·         That the Government should incentivise the move to clean fuels by motivating industry and entrepreneurs to develop technologies which will not adversely affect the economy, drivers or businesses. In what used to be a true Conservative belief, allow the market to dictate what clean fuel technology is best and affordable for all drivers, not through a very costly, divisive and ineffective Government mandate.

·         That the Government should explain in future Budgets how they are to replace the loss of fuel duty revenue without increasing it for one of the world’s already highest-taxed driver country. Work with FairFuelUK and its All-Party Parliamentary Group to develop a fair and equitable way to replace £35billion of fuel duty and VAT. All road users, whatever their vehicles, must pay to use our roads and highways, irrespective of their chosen ‘fuel’ technology. Cyclists be mindful.

·         A long-term road transport strategy which benefits and unites ALL road users with an emphasis on public transport and freeing our congested roads. (Residents, businesses, motorists are incensed by current political policies such as Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes and cycle lanes causing blockades, congestion and deferred pollution.) FairFuelUK calls on the Government to build new cycle schemes away from existing roads. The growing conflict in road policy is being fuelled by a laudable but mistaken belief that cycling is the ultimate transport solution. While drivers and motorcyclists pay for all road space, the recent allocation of many existing urban highways is mostly for the benefit of a few who are ‘unrepresentative of the population at large’.

·         To set up a new Road User Consultative Group to include cyclists, motor bikers, cars, van drivers, cabbies and truckers. This vital policy advisory panel should be made up of associations and organisations who represent grassroots road users, together with the APPG for Fair Fuel for UK Motorists and Hauliers but not the profit-motivated commercial groups or highly financed green campaigners. Their remit would be to advise, scrutinise and support the Transport, Environment and Treasury departments on all aspects of rural and urban road transport strategies, air quality plans and future vehicle taxation.

This is the commonsense and conservative approach. It’s such a shame that these so-called think-tanks are so out of touch with the majority of ordinary people who have to get on with their daily lives and run businesses in an inflationary cost-of-living crisis as well as in one of the world’s highest taxed driver economies. 

Surely with generations of demonised drivers used as cash cows, it’s time this clueless government was told by think-tanks such as the CPS to start investing in our roads infrastructure and hypothecate fuel tax exactly for that.

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Howard Cox
Howard Cox
Howard Cox is the Founder of FairFuelUK, that has campaigned to stop £200bn of planned fuel tax rises since 2010. He is also Reform UK's London Mayoral Candidate and Secretary to the APPG for Fair Fuel for motorists and hauliers.

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