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Budget falls short on air quality

Stuart Spear08/03/2017 - 16:22

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Philip Hammond falls short on environment
Philip Hammond falls short on environment

The CIEH has expressed disappointment around the Government’s failure to address air quality issues in this week’s budget.

In particular the CIEH had hoped for an end to the Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) incentive to buy diesel cars by revising the first-year rate in this budget.   

Last month the CIEH joined a coalition of environmental and health groups who wrote to the chancellor Philip Hammond calling for the introduction of a new diesel vehicle excise duty. The letter pointed out that diesel car ownership had risen from 18 per cent in 2001 to 45 per cent largely through the advantageous VED.  

Co-signatories to the letter included Greenpeace, the British Lung Foundation ClientEarth and Friends of the Earth. The letter stated ‘It is only fair that VED should reflect the extra financial and health impact that diesel cars have on society…

‘A change to the VED first year rate would avoid penalising drivers for past choices made in good faith and it would also send a vital signal to the market about the direction of travel towards a cleaner future.’

There is also disappointment that an anticipated introduction of a diesel scrappage scheme has also failed to materialise in this budget. Before today’s announcement the Government had come under increasing pressure to compensate drivers who had previously bought diesel cars in good faith.

The budget did however state that the Government would be working with hauliers to update the HGV road levy to reward those that properly plan routes and so reduce emissions. There will be a call for evidence in the next few months.

‘The Chancellor stressed that this budget was about investing in Britain’s future. But when the moment came, he failed to remove Vehicle Excise Duty incentives for diesel fuels or introduce a scrappage scheme for older polluting diesel vehicles,’ said Debbie Wood, director of professional development for CIEH.

‘We will look back at this as yet another opportunity missed by the Government to improve air quality for the benefit of future generations’.

On transport Mr Hammond announced £90m for the North and £23m for the Midlands from a £220 million fund that addresses pinch points on the national road network.

He also launched a £690m competition for local authorities across England to tackle urban congestion and get local transport networks moving. 

The chancellor re-announced the sugar tax set at 18 and 25 pence per litre for the main and higher tax bands but warned of a reduction in expected yield from tax as companies were already reformulating sugar out of their drinks, resulting in good news for children.

Mr Hammond added that the expected revenue shortfall would not impact upon the £1bn fund originally allocated to the Department for Education to invest in school sports and healthy living programmes. The chancellor also introduced a new minimum excise duty on cigarettes based on a pack price of £7.35.

‘Less tax being generated from the sugar tax on soft drinks is positive news,’ said Ms Wood.  ‘Producers have clearly got the message that they need to change their practices and initiatives are spreading as only today, Nestle announced their chocolate bars will soon contain less sugar.

‘There is still much work to do on this front and success will only be achieved if the Government and industry work together to adopt more effective mechanisms to support healthier food offers.’

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