Fresh tax attack on Chelsea tractors

The Liberal Democrats have called for a dramatic increase in the tax rate for the most polluting cars, including most 4x4s.

In his budget proposals, chancellor Gordon Brown said he would raise annual taxes for cars that producing more than 225 g CO2/km to £210 – a £30 increase. Environmentalists dismissed this as a “cosmetic” change that would not influence car buyers (see related story).

The Lib Dem proposals, launched on Tuesday as an amendment to the finance bill which puts the Budget into law, comes as green issues climb up the political agenda ahead of Thursday’s local elections.

Chris Huhne commented: “The proposal for a dramatically more progressive Vehicle Excise Duty will shift patterns of car buying and tackle the source of greenhouse gases from transport.

“Research from the Energy Savings Trust shows that a top rate of £2000 would help change behaviour and cut CO2 emissions. If people choose to purchase the most polluting cars they must recognise the environmental cost.

He said the extra tax proposed by Gordon Brown was “less than the cost of half a tank of petrol for many of these cars.”

The Lib Dems took pains to point out that the tax increase would not hit farmers and other country dwellers who may need a 4×4 for access. Not all 4x4s fall into the highest tax bracket, such as the Land Rover Freelander, which emits 205 g CO2/km.

A 50% tax reduction for rural dwellers would give rural dwellers extra protection from the effects of the tax. “This amendment is aimed at Chelsea tractors, not vital rural vehicles,” the Lib Dems said in a statement.

The new tax would only apply to new cars, that is those being registered for the first time. Data for 2005 suggest that around 8% of new cars would fall into the most polluting bracket. Models include 4x4s like the Range Rover 4.4 V8, which burns as much as 389 g CO2 /km, luxury sports cars like the Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe, but also “family” cars like the Renault Espace 2 lite.

Latest data on emissions from new cars can be found in the UK Car registrations by CO2 performance report from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Goska Romanowicz

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