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Julia Goldsworthy: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Rob Marris: I will not, I am afraid, because I do not have time.

There are some negatives. In recent years, private buyers have been buying fewer fuel-efficient cars each year. In 2003–04, the average figure for CO 2 emissions was 170 g per km. On average, that is higher than the figure for private fleet new vehicle purchases in 2002. In 2005, the UK average was 169 g per km, making us fourth worst out of the 15 European Union countries before accession. The western European average is 160 g per km. The European Union target, which is adhered to in principle by this Government, is to get average emissions for new vehicles purchased in the UK down to 140 g per km by 2008. Unless something dramatic happens, there is no prospect whatsoever of our
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reaching that target, given that our average in 2005, three years beforehand, was 169 g per km. In some ways, we are even behind China, which has legally binding maximum CO 2 emissions for cars based on their weight.

I am disappointed with clause 13 in terms of where we should be going. Next year, we should hit gas guzzlers—4x4s are not the only issue. MORI research for the Department for Transport indicated that 72 per cent. of people would swap their vehicles if there was a £300 or more differential on vehicle excise duty. Clause 13 is a start, but the new band G is not nearly enough of a differential.

We have heard about people in rural areas going across the fields in 4x4s to do their spring lambing. I have to say to hon. Members that of the 10 highest CO 2 –emitting cars, only the Chrysler Jeep SRT 10 comes into the category of a vehicle that one could take lambing. Those that do not include the Lamborghini Diablo, the Lamborghini Murcielago, the Bentley Arnage, the Aston Martin DB7 GT, the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, the Aston Martin DB7 Vantage, the Lamborghini Gallardo and the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish. They all emit more than 448 g of CO 2 , compared with 109 g for some of the lowest-emitting vehicles, such as the Toyota Aygo, whether petrol or diesel. Band G is not set high enough. As the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Julia Goldsworthy) said, some 4x4 vehicles, for those who need them, emit considerably less than 200 g per km—the Toyota RAV4, for instance. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to look at this seriously and to do a whole lot better than clause 13 in next year's Budget.

Mr. Paul Goodman: Given that we have not had the chance to vote on the Liberal Democrat amendments for reasons that have not been satisfactorily explained, I shall contribute briefly to the stand part debate.

Tables A and B are the key to the clause. It is clearly sensible in principle to use the tax system to encourage motorists to go green. It therefore follows that one should tax the most polluting vehicles most heavily and the least polluting vehicles least heavily, if at all. Changes to vehicle excise duty bands must therefore be carried out with conviction and at least look to make a difference to consumer behaviour.

Let me sum up the consensus of opinion of the organisations that commented on the Government's proposals. It is that, although the Government are moving in the right direction, the changes lack conviction. Transport 2000 called the new top rate "derisory" and said that the changes would hardly pay for the new paperwork. Friends of the Earth called the changes "utterly inadequate" and said that they

Greenpeace said that

On the lowest rate, it is not unreasonable to expect a tax incentive to be of some use to the consumer. Members on the Treasury Bench will be aware of the point that was made previously that no cars on which the new rate would apparently apply are currently available on the market. There therefore appears to be little conviction.
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There are two courses than an Opposition can take on the Government's proposed changes. They could table amendments to try only to reduce the take from vehicle excise duty because one cannot propose an increase in a Finance Bill. If the Liberal Democrats want to do that, that is up to them. We believe that that is an irresponsible approach and that the Opposition should look forward to 2009, when my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne) will present his first Budget. We will try to provide greater incentives at the bottom band and consider heavier increases at the top. If the Liberal Democrats want to make tax and spending pledges, that is up to them, but we cannot say whether our proposal will be a revenue-neutral package or constitute a reduction.

Julia Goldsworthy: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Goodman: I apologise but I want to allow the Financial Secretary time to reply. We cannot say now whether, in 2009, the incentives will be part of an overall package that tries to reduce the tax take—which the Liberal Democrats propose today—whether they will be revenue-neutral or constitute an increase.

In summary, the Government are heading in the right direction by introducing a new zero bottom band and a heavier top band but that does not appear to be done with conviction because it will make little difference to what people consume in the market.

John Healey: Earlier, I set out the purpose and outlined details of clause 13 and I am glad that the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Goodman) says that it is going in the right direction. It may interest hon. Members, especially the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Julia Goldsworthy), to know that in 1997 only 4 per cent. of the cars that were registered that year had emissions below 140 g per km. In 2005, the figure was 18 per cent. Our reformed vehicle excise duty system plays a part and makes a contribution, alongside other policies, towards driving down the average emissions by cars.

I am especially grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) for reiterating many of the points that I made about the Government's strong environmental record. I take his point about gas guzzlers as an early representation for the Budget in 2007.

I commend the clause to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 13 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 14 and 15 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill (Clauses 13 to 15, 26, 61, 91 and 106 and Schedule 14) reported, without amendment; to lie upon the Table.       


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Northern Ireland

That the draft Planning Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2006, which was laid before this House on 8th March, be approved.—[Mr. Watts.]

Question agreed to.

3 May 2006 : Column 1075


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 119(9) (European Standing Committees),

Protection of chickens kept for meat production

That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 9606/05, Communication from the Commission of a Proposal for a Council Directive laying down minimum rules for the protection of chickens kept for meat production; and agrees that the Government should secure sustainable and affordable improvements to meat chicken welfare through effective and proportionate means, including a harmonised environment and inspection regime.—[Mr. Watts.]

Question agreed to.





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