28 May 2008
This was from the Morning Star.
On the road to nowhere
(Tuesday 27 May 2008)
by LOUISE NOUSRATPOUR
GREEN campaigners urged the government on Tuesday to reward responsible motorists by abolishing road tax and shifting the responsibility on to petrol-guzzlers through fuel duty.
They spoke out as road lobbyists and lorry drivers staged a slow-moving protest through London and Cardiff against rising fuel prices and the proposed green taxes on motorists, which spell rising fuel duties as well as higher annual road tax charges of up to £200.
Peter Carroll, one of the hauliers behind the protest, said: "The government takes about 60 per cent of the cost of fuel in tax.
"Buses get nearly all this back in rebates and we want the government to introduce an essential user rebate to help hauliers and save them from going out of business."
However, green campaigners and left politicians distanced themselves from the protesting hauliers' demand for fuel tax refunds for road transport businesses.
Communist Party of Britain general secretary Rob Griffiths dismissed the protest as one organised "by employers and contractors in their own narrow interest.
"What is required in the interest of everyone affected by the rising price of oil is a windfall tax on oil corporations and price controls on food and other essentials."
Green Party principal speaker Derek Wall agreed that a windfall tax on oil companies was needed to invest in renewable energy and public transport.
He added: "While we respect people's right to non-violent protest, we believe that it is wrong to demand a cap on fuel duty.
"The government should get rid of the road tax and introduce transport taxation that is linked to fuel usage to encourage responsible driving."
Fellow party speaker Caroline Lucas MEP added: "The flat road tax on vehicle ownership takes no account of road usage and provides no incentive or reward for making less polluting travel choices.
"A far fairer alternative would be to scrap it altogether and move the responsibility solely onto fuel tax."
Ms Lucas expressed little sympathy for road lobbyists, who she said consistently argue for more road building and more traffic, which means more pollution.
"They have attempted to block every effort to reduce our dependency on petrol. Now the price has inevitably risen and they want the rest of us to pay for it through our taxes or cuts to servcies," she said.
"The answer would be to remove the argument about road tax increases in one swipe and introduce a scheme that rewards those who use less fuel."
Inside the Commons, the government is facing a damaging rebellion from more than 30 Labour backbenchers who have signed a motion against the green taxes.
But environmental group Friends of the Earth spokesman Mike Childs pointed out that, despite fuel price rises, the overall cost of motoring had actually fallen in real terms while the cost of public transport had risen.
"This trend must be reversed," he demanded. "The government must fast-track investment in public transport and backing for smarter cars that use less petrol so our society is not held to ransom by our reliance on a dwindling and insecure natural resource."
Posted by Derek Wall at 12:30 pm