Green taxes will hit the poorest

IN the dash to the mountain top to scream “we're greener than you,” the three main political parties seem to have overlooked the regressive impact green taxes will have on the weakest in society.

By Graham Dines

IN the dash to the mountain top to scream “we're greener than you,” the three main political parties seem to have overlooked the regressive impact green taxes will have on the weakest in society.

I'm all in favour of slapping a massive increase in vehicle excise duty on Chelsea tractors and top of the range status cars - £3,000 or more wouldn't come amiss - because if you can afford to buy such vehicles, then you afford extra taxes.

But on the smoke emitting jalopies run by the rural poor or those living on the run down housing estates of our big cities, an increase in duty which they can't afford will lead to even further social exclusion.

Given that a litre of petrol costs the same for the owner of a Ferrari and a person who runs an elderly Ford Mondeo, justice demands where the taxes must be applied.

Paying to drive by the mile will hit small business, self-employed, rural dwellers and also families who want to go on holiday to Scotland or the West Country. Nobody seems to have considered the impact on the tourist industry in this country.

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As for aviation tax - I admit it's ludicrous that you can fly to Athens and back for the price of a packet of cigarettes. But for a typical family of four, adding up to £100 return for each ticket for their one holiday a year in Benidorm will only impact on the less well off.

The aviation fuel tax suggestion seems to just affect UK domestic and internal EU flights. It could well be that those trips to Benidorm and Athens end up costing the same as I paid recently to fly to Washington DC.

One money spinner I would like to see is a 100% tax on upper and business class seats on transatlantic flights. If the come-on sales pitch “why not upgrade for £900 one-way” became £1,800, then less people would pay the extra, and the number of seats in an aircraft could be increased leading to a reduction in the number of flights.

MPs could lead the way. Instead of proudly declaring in the register of interests that they have been given free upgrades, they should refuse and sit in economy class like the rest of us.

All this green tax talk is designed to make us think carefully before we travel. But trains are already overcrowded, and buses - where they run with any frequency at all - are often a disgrace.

Until we get over the mentality that buses are only for the simple, the dispossessed and pensioners wearing mauve shell suits, there will never be the quality service needed. Vehicles more than 10 years old which don't seem to have been either washed externally or cleaned inside since they entered service are never going to entice people to leave their cars at home.

SECRETARIES at the House of Commons earn £35,000 a year and researchers are paid £24,000. On top of this, National Insurance has to be paid. Such figures put MPs' allowances into perspective. But instead of MPs employing their own staff, I would prefer the state to provide each MP with a secretary and one researcher.

Overall costs wouldn't go down, but it would stop the annual row over “greedy” MPs' expenses and would give secretaries security of tenure instead of facing the prospect of the dole queue if their bosses are defeated at an election.

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