Previous Labour Government were aware of diesel car’s negative effects on the environment
Potential tax increases for diesel drivers were discussed earlier this year when Chancellor, Philip Hammond, said that he would “explore appropriate tax treatments” for them for the Autumn Budget.
In addition to this fuel duty, which has been frozen at 57.95p since January 2011, is set to increase.
Meanwhile, petrol fuel duty will actually be slashed to further dissuade motorists from buying new diesel cars.
These are a just a number of measure that are being introduced to stop people switching to diesel.
Levies on parking and using clean air zones have also been introduced to encourage current diesel owners to use their car less or ditch them for a low emissions equivalent.
It marks a shift in opinion for the Government which, back in 2001, introduced a new car tax system which made buying a diesel much more attractive.
The new vehicle excise duty (VED) system introduced in 2001 by Gordon Brown made it cheaper for vehicles which emitted less CO2 emissions.
Typically, diesel vehicles emit less CO2 emissions than petrol cars which saw more people opt for diesels because they were cheaper to tax and perceivably better for the environment.
Despite these cars emitting less CO2 however, they do produce more particulate and NOX pollution which has been linked to respiratory and heart conditions and a contributing factor to the premature death of 40,000 people annually.
Revealing new documents obtained by the BBC in a FOI battle that took two years, has revealed that the Government was aware of the negative impact of diesel vehicles.
Advice from the Treasury’s tax policy section presented to ministers stated: “Relative to petrol, diesel has lower emissions of CO2 but higher emissions of the particulates and pollutants which damage local air quality.
The dash for diesel was pursued under a Labour government, and these documents show they knew the damage this would do to our environment
“A diesel supplement is necessary so that we do not create incentives for people to choose diesel vehicles over similar petrol models in order to attract a lower VED rate.”
“Presentationally, this should be seen as ensuring fair treatment of petrol and diesel, rather than as a penalty on diesel users.”
Environmental lawyers ClientEarth are demanding urgent action to shift diesel vehicles off the UK’s roads as papers emerge showing ministers have known for decades that the fuel threatens people’s health – and yet made policy to encourage diesel vehicle uptake regardless.
James Thornton, CEO of ClientEarth, said: “This is truly unbelievable – an absolute scandal. Ministers knew full well that diesel was damaging people’s health but still ploughed ahead with policy that populated this country’s roads with diesel vehicles.
“Public health has consistently played second fiddle to false political priorities – and ministers are still not acting urgently enough to remedy it. The government cannot bargain with people’s health again.
“We now know that the government has known for decades that diesel was harmful. And we’re still living in a country with illegally poor air quality, despite two court orders against the government, while the tax system continues to favour the very vehicles that keep it dirty.
“Michael Gove needs to stop passing the buck to local authorities and actually put the people of this country first. Ministers have knowingly jeopardised our health and they must under absolutely no circumstances let it happen again.
“The Budget is the current government’s golden opportunity to make good on its duty to clean up our air. With the right policies, the Chancellor must urgently abolish the incentives that have condemned the country to illegally poor air quality for decades.
Diesel cars emit less CO2 emissions but more particulates and nitrogen oxides
“It would be inexcusable not to take the strongest action now. We need a national network of Clean Air Zones to take the dirtiest vehicles out of the most polluted parts of our towns and cities.
“Philip Hammond should reform the vehicle tax system so it is based on what vehicles actually emit on the road. He must also finally launch a scrappage scheme, aided by the motor industry, to help those who bought diesel vehicles in good faith move to cleaner alternatives.”
The Environment Secretary Michael Gove said to the BBC: “The dash for diesel was pursued under a Labour government, and these documents show they knew the damage this would do to our environment. This is yet another example of a Conservative government having to clean up Labour’s mess.
“We are taking action and have put in place a £3bn plan to improve air quality and reduce harmful emissions as well as ending the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2040.”