Clause 77 - Rates for light passenger or light goods vehicles, motorcycles etc

Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 5th January 2022.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 5—Vehicle taxes: effect on climate change goals—

“The Government must publish within 12 months of this Act coming into effect an assessment of the impact of sections 77 to 79 on the goal of tackling climate change and on the UK’s plans to reach net zero by 2050.”

New clause 15—Review of VED revenue from light passenger or light goods vehicles, motorcycles etc in context of future demand for electric vehicles—

“(1) The Government must publish within twelve months of this Act coming into effect an assessment of the expected level of revenues of Vehicle Excise Duty from light passenger or light goods vehicles, motorcycles etc in future years in the context of the expected uptake of electric vehicles.

(2) The Review must also consider possible alternatives to Vehicle Excise Duty on these vehicles

Photo of Helen Whately Helen Whately The Exchequer Secretary

Clause 77 makes changes to uprate vehicle excise duty—or VED—for cars, vans and motorcycles in line with the retail prices index from 1 April 2022. VED is paid on vehicle ownership, and rates chargeable are dependent on various factors, including the vehicle type, date of first registration and carbon emissions. The Government has uprated VED for cars, vans and motorcycles in line with inflation every year since 2010, which means that rates have remained unchanged in real terms during this time. The changes made by clause 77 will uprate VED rates for cars, vans and motorcycles by RPI only for the 12th successive year, meaning that VED liabilities will not increase in real terms. The standard rate of VED for cars registered since 1 April 2017 will increase by only £10. The flat rate for vans will increase by £15 and motorcyclists will see an increase in rates of no more than £5.

New clause 5, tabled by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central, asks the Government to publish within 12 months of this Bill coming into effect an assessment of the impact of sections 77 to 79 on the goal of tackling climate change and on the UK’s plan to reach net zero by 2050. Similarly, new clauses 4 and 8 tabled by the hon. Lady ask the Government to publish, within 12 months of this Bill coming into effect, impact assessments on the goal of tackling climate change and on the UK’s plan to reach net zero by 2050, first on the Act as whole, and, secondly, on section 99 and schedule 16. These amendments are unnecessary and should not stand part of the Bill.

The Government are proud of our world-leading climate commitments, most recently set out in the net zero strategy. The latest Budget and spending review confirm that since March 2021, the Government will have committed a total of £30 billion of domestic investment for the green industrial revolution. That investment will keep the UK on track to meet its carbon budgets and nationally determined contribution, and to reach net zero by 2050. The net zero strategy sets out how the Government will monitor progress to ensure that we stay on track for our emissions targets. That includes commitments to require the Government

“to reflect environmental issues in national policy making”.

At fiscal events, including the spending review 2021, all Departments are required to prepare their spending proposals in line with the Green Book, which sets out the rules that we use in the Treasury to guide individual spending decisions. The Green Book already mandates consideration of climate and environmental impacts in spending, and it was updated in 2020 to emphasise that policies must be developed and assessed against how well they deliver on the Government’s long-term policy aims such as net zero.

Furthermore, the Treasury carefully considers the climate change and environmental implications of relevant tax measures. The Government incorporated a climate assessment in all relevant tax information and impact notes for measures at Budget—they are published online—and we will continue to do so in future TIINs. For example, the TIIN for the new plastic packaging tax incorporates an assessment of anticipated carbon savings—nearly 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2022-23. In addition, HMRC is exploring options further to strengthen the analytical approach to monitoring, evaluating and quantifying the environmental impacts of tax measures.

Given the substantial work already under way on these issues, the proposed amendment would add unnecessary bureaucratic requirements and layers of complexity. I therefore urge the Committee to reject new clause 5 and, for the same reasons, I will urge the Committee to reject new clauses 4 and 8 when we turn to those.

New clause 15, tabled by the hon. Members for Ealing North, for Erith and Thamesmead and for Blaydon, asks the Government to publish, within 12 months of the Act coming into effect, a review of the impact on VED revenue of future demand for electric vehicles. This new clause is also unnecessary and should not stand part of the Bill. The Government are committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and the transition towards electric vehicles and the phase-out of new petrol and diesel cars and vans will make a vital contribution to that. The Government have committed to ensuring, as we move forward with this transition, that revenue from motoring taxes keeps pace with this change, to make sure that we can continue to fund the excellent public services and infrastructure that people and families across the UK expect.

Analysis that projects the possible impact on VED revenues of future demand for electric vehicles is already in the public domain. First, since 2016, the Government have asked the Office for Budget Responsibility to publish a fiscal risks statement to improve disclosure and management of fiscal risks. The OBR’s 2021 fiscal risks report makes an assessment of the fiscal impact of achieving net zero, including the impact on VED and fuel duty receipts, which it explores under different climate change modelling scenarios.

Secondly, the net zero review published by the Treasury in October of last year also examines the possible decline in tax revenues, including VED and fuel duty receipts, as part of the transition to net zero. It notes that, were the current tax system to remain unchanged across the transition period, tax receipts from most fossil fuel-related activity would decline towards zero across the first 20 years of the transition, leaving receipts lower in the 2040s by up to 1.5% of GDP in each year relative to a baseline where they stayed fixed as a share of GDP.

Given that analysis of future VED revenues has already been published by both the Government and the OBR, the review of this issue sought by this new clause is unnecessary. I therefore urge the Committee to reject new clause 15.

Overall, the changes outlined in clause 77 will maintain revenue sustainability by ensuring that motorists continue to make a fair contribution to the public finances. I therefore urge that this clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury)

Clause 77 raises the rate of vehicle excise duty for various categories of vehicle by RPI. This is a regular update to VED to ensure that it remains the same in real terms, and we do not oppose it. I do wish to make broader points about taxes affecting drivers and, in particular, to speak to our new clause 15.

Electric vehicles are not liable for vehicle excise duty, and of course their owners do not pay fuel duty. New clause 15 calls on the Government to report on expected future levels of vehicle excise duty in the context of the increasing uptake of electrical vehicles. It is designed to encourage the Government to begin to think and talk publicly about that critical question.

The transition from petrol and diesel cars to electric vehicles is critical as part of our broader transition to net zero. The Opposition have constantly raised concerns about the fact that the Government are not doing enough to support the take-up of electric vehicles, whether through supporting consumers and producers or improving the critical charging infrastructure. We continue to believe that the Government must do more in that area, but we also believe that they must begin to set out how they will deal with the fiscal consequences of the transition.

Fuel duty and VED currently raise around £35 billion for the Treasury each year. They are by far the largest revenue-raising environmental taxes. It is a truly significant amount of Government revenue, equivalent to nearly half the Education budget, but as electric vehicles become an increasing share of vehicles on the roads, that revenue will decline rapidly. One estimate shows that tax revenues from car usage could fall by around £10 billion by 2030, £20 billion by 2035, and £30 billion by 2040. The Treasury’s own net zero review stated that much of the current revenue from taxing fossil fuels was likely to be eroded during the transition to a net zero economy.

We might have expected the review to set out what the Treasury planned to do about that, but it was notably silent on that matter. When the Minister responds, can she tell us what work the Treasury is carrying out on that important issue and when it will set out its plans? Can she tell us what alternatives to VED the Treasury is considering—for example, road pricing or other taxes? Crucially, how will the Treasury balance the need to maintain income from driving with the need to incentivise the switch to electric vehicles? Those are critical questions, which cannot and must not be left to the last minute. We deserve to have an open debate about the best way forward. Motorists and taxpayers deserve clarity about how they will be taxed in the future. I hope that the Minister can begin to give us some insight into the Treasury’s thinking on this issue.

Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Conservative, North West Durham

Thank you very much indeed, Dame Angela—

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey

Order. I will call the hon. Gentleman, but first I call Richard Thomson.

Photo of Richard Thomson Richard Thomson Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Financial Secretary), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

Thank you, Dame Angela; it is a relief to find out that my hearing is not as dodgy as I momentarily thought it was.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey

It was probably my mask.

Photo of Richard Thomson Richard Thomson Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Financial Secretary), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

I rise to speak in support of new clause 5, which is in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Central. The Minister has run through why we are looking to have an assessment. I say to her as gently as I can that it is all fine and well to be proud of commitments that the Government have made, but it would be much better to rack up more quickly achievements that she could point to and be proud of on climate change, rather than just making statements of aspiration. This is one area where it is quite important to get some more chalk on the board.

As we have heard, the Bill sets a series of incremental changes to vehicle excise duty, and precisely because they are incremental, we might expect, at best, an equally incremental impact, or even an imperceptible one, on changing behaviour and on the resulting climate change impacts. We are all aware of the mandate to end the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles in a bid to encourage the take-up of alternatively fuelled vehicles, but I am of the same view as the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead: we will need some significant further incentivisation if we are to drive the change through that policy on the scale and at the pace that is required.

My party is very fond of drawing comparisons with Norway—another small country, like Scotland, of 5 million people—on the other side of the North sea. Sometimes those comparisons are about what might have been, but we also point to what could and perhaps what should be. Norway has been so successful in incentivising the take-up of electric vehicles that the Government are running out of hydrocarbon-fuelled vehicles to tax, which has resulted in a 19.2 billion kroner gap in their latest budget.

That is not a problem that the UK Government are likely to encounter any time soon, in view of the current take-up of electric vehicles, and that is why new clause 5 is so important. It would provide for an assessment of how effective or—as we suspect—ineffective these particular changes will be over the year, so that the UK Government had the necessary information base to set future policy as quickly as possible. I think the Minister knows that we need to do that at some point, and surely it is better to start sooner rather than later.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey

I am waiting for the Whip. If the Whip wishes to move the adjournment, I will call Richard Holden first when we come back after the break.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey

I intend to come back promptly at 6 o’clock. If you could be here very promptly, Richard Holden, I give you prior warning that I intend to call you on the dot.

Ordered, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Alan Mak.)

Adjourned till this day at Six o’clock.