Budget

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24 March 1993.

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Photo of Mr Dennis Turner Mr Dennis Turner , Wolverhampton South East 12:00, 24 March 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of the environmental impact of fiscal changes announced in the Budget.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Secretary of State for Environment

As I understand it, the hon. Gentleman owns a part share in a racehorse, so I would imagine that he would be the first to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer for his Budget measures. I welcome the changes announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor in his Budget statement, which will greatly benefit the environment. It was the greenest Budget ever.

Photo of Mr Dennis Turner Mr Dennis Turner , Wolverhampton South East

Instead of inflicting cruel damage by increasing fuel costs by 10 per cent. across the board, would it not have been better for the environment if the Chancellor had adjusted the differentials between leaded and unleaded petrol and introduced a higher rate of tax on cars with large engines than on small cars? I suggest to the Secretary of State that that would have been a much better contribution to our environment.

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Secretary of State for Environment

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor introduced measures on the taxation of cars which will achieve precisely the effect to which the hon. Gentleman referred. The use of unleaded petrol does not contribute to a reduction in global warming. Therefore, increasing the differential would not have the effect that the measures that my right hon. Friend introduced will have.

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that yesterday Britain came under attack from our EC partners for failing to endorse an EC-wide energy tax? Will he make our critics aware that our right hon. Friend the Chancellor in his recent Budget met our commitment fully by covering energy tax in the way that he has done?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Secretary of State for Environment

I did precisely that at a meeting of the Council of Environment Ministers in Brussels on Monday. As a result of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor's Budget, we already have in place measures that take us two thirds of the way towards achieving our target under the climate change convention that we signed up to at Rio. In the next few months, we shall announce how we propose to fulfil the other third of our target.

Photo of Mr Chris Smith Mr Chris Smith Shadow Secretary of State

Will the Secretary of State admit that the imposition of VAT on electricity and gas bills will, at the most generous estimate, reduce carbon emissions in Britain by less than 1 per cent? Is that not a pathetically small advance for the environment at the cost of massive hardship to millions of people who will now have to struggle hard to heat their homes? Is it not true that, as Greenpeace pointed out, the Budget was far more about raising money than about tackling climate change? Are not the Government pretending to be green purely and simply because their finances are in the red?

Photo of Michael Howard Michael Howard Secretary of State for Environment

The hon. Gentleman will know that Friends of the Earth warmly welcomed the measures in my right hon. Friend's Budget. Has the hon. Gentleman forgotten that in February this year he told Green Magazine that his party had been thinking of a number of small but effective tax measures which included increasing VAT on environmentally unfriendly products? Does the hon. Gentleman think that he can get away with telling Green Magazine one thing and the House another?