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Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I have two fundamental objections to the Bill. First, it continues the Government’s cruel and counterproductive austerity agenda, which is both socially destructive and economically illiterate. Secondly, it flies in the face of the Government’s own rhetoric about the threat of climate change to our economy, society, security and wellbeing. Not only does it ignore the public interest in mitigating climate risk, but it fails to realise the economic benefits to the UK of being at the forefront of the global transition to a zero-carbon, resource-efficient, sustainable economy.
Over the past few months, hundreds of leading UK businesses—not just environmentalists—have repeatedly called on the Chancellor to prioritise green investment and climate action, warning that the UK’s green economy is at a crossroads without clear policy direction. It is astonishing that, this year of all years, when the Government say that we need a bold agreement at the climate summit in Paris, the Treasury is undermining both the UK’s reputation and, more importantly, the chances of meeting our own emission targets. It is hard to see how the Government really do think that “Do as I say, not as I do” demonstrates any real leadership.
One such backward provision in this Bill is the change to vehicle excise duty. The Government claim that
“the new VED system will be reviewed as necessary to ensure that it continues to incentivise the cleanest cars.”
Yet once again there is a gaping chasm between the spin and the substance, because while zero-emission vehicles still pay nothing—so no change there—high-polluting cars will pay far less tax than at present. Again, it is not only those concerned with air pollution and climate change who are pointing out the idiocy of this measure. Once more the Chancellor has managed to unite industry and environmentalists, with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders saying that
“the new regime will disincentivise take up of low emission vehicles. New technologies such as plug-in hybrid, the fastest growing ultra low emission vehicle segment, will not benefit from long-term VED incentive, threatening the ability of the UK and the UK automotive sector to meet ever stricter CO2 targets.”