Taxing older cars will backfire on Brown

FOR a politician who spent 10 years in charge of the Treasury, Gordon Brown is distinctly naïve when it comes to taxation. He doesn't appear to realise that imposing retrospective taxes on low income earners is unfair and verging on the immoral.

Graham Dines

FOR a politician who spent 10 years in charge of the Treasury, Gordon Brown is distinctly naïve when it comes to taxation. He doesn't appear to realise that imposing retrospective taxes on low income earners is unfair and verging on the immoral.

Alastair Darling, his successor as Chancellor sneaked out, in the wad of papers accompanying the Budget last March, proposals that vehicle excise duty would rocket next year for owners of high CO2 emitting cars registered after January 1, 2001.

In the Commons this week, Tory leader David Cameron launched an attack which had been started by Labour MPs concerned that poorer constituents with old cars would be walloped with a doubling of the car licence fee.


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Mr Cameron quoted Treasury officials who said that under the changes, 81% of car owners would be worse off. He demanded to know why no mention of this increase for people who had bought a car up to seven years ago had been made in the text of the Budget seat

“It was in the Budget documents,” retorted the Prime Minister, accusing Mr Cameron of reneging on his oft repeated policy of introducing green taxes to help the environment.

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“When will the Conservative party be honest? When Conservative Members say that they support green taxes and then run away from every one of them, is it not like the Leader of the Opposition when he cycles to work with his car following?” asked Mr Brown.

That's an old gag and one which he probably regretted as soon as he made it. It allowed Cameron - who is quick on his feet, unlike the Prime Minister who increasingly looks and sounds as if he's swimming in Scottish porridge - to hit back: “It is not my backbenchers telling me to get on my bike,” a reference to the growing disenchantment of Labour MPs with the Prime Minister”

“Is the Prime Minister really going to go ahead with this deeply unpopular tax when families are struggling with the cost of living?

“How on earth is it green to tax someone who bought a car five years ago? The director of Greenpeace says: `It's the kind of measure that gives green taxes a bad name because it does no change behaviour.'”

Retrospective taxation is the equivalent to reintroducing capital punishment and hanging all those who murdered in the previous five years when the ultimate penalty had not been on the statute book.

It's the sign of a Government out of touch. Gordon Brown got away with his tax raid on private pension funds because the electorate in the post-1997 were euphoric that they had a change of Government and didn't mind what policies it introduced.

As the penny drops that millions of people, who depend on private pensions for a decent standard of living after retirement, will not be as comfortably off as they had hoped, Gordon Brown won't be able to hide.

Most people driving older cars are likely to be Labour voters. Under pressure because of soaring food, petrol and heating costs, they can't afford to change cars.

There'll be hardest hit by the changes to vehicle excise duties, the final phase of which comes in on April 1 2010, just weeks before the next General Election.

LABOUR MEPs WANT TO MARGINALISE THE SMALLER PARTIES

LABOUR Euro MPs, those self appointed guardians of democratic federalism in the European Union, are attempting to railroad through Strasbourg and Brussels a proposal on parliamentary representation which is so fundamentally undemocratic and breathtakingly arrogant that even the oligarchs in the European Commission wouldn't have dared put it forward.

In a nutshell, Labour's Richard Corbett wants to increase the minimum number of MEPs required to form a parliamentary group from 20 to 30 and require them to come from one quarter of the member states.

That means common cause has to be found among MEPs from seven nations for a group to be formed and seated, to take parliamentary posts, and to have representation on committees.

If Britons vote for UKIP, the Greens, Ulster's unionists, the nationalists in Scotland and Wales or any other minor party in sufficient numbers that these parties' candidates are elected, these MEPs will be marginalised and have no influence on decision-making

Jeffrey Titford, UKIP MEP for the East of England, believes the target of this move is his party, because Labour cannot forgive it for winning a record number of seats in the 2004 election. UKIP is aligned to the IND-DEM Group, which would find the proposed rule impossible to meet.

“This would give the larger, pro-EU groups almost total control over the Parliamentary agenda,” says Mr Titford. “In practice it would mean that UKIP MEPs would end up being gagged, prevented even from speaking in parliamentary and also cut off from group funding for our campaigns.”

Even Andrew Duff - East of England Liberal Democrat MEP and one of the most federal Brits in the parliament - is against the plan because it would shut down minority groups.

“Whatever one's views about their politics,” says Mr Duff, “it cannot be argued that these small groups do not represent a strand of European public opinion. We live in a diverse Europe, and if the European Parliament is to be the legitimate forum for post-national democracy, all sorts of minority opinions have to be given effective, if proportionate representation.

“Other procedural reforms taking place have effectively limited the capacity of extremist minorities to disrupt the activities of the House. I do not think we need to go further, and I am not sure what remaining problems Mr Corbett's proposals are actually meant to address.”

It could also scupper Tory hopes of forming a new group after next year's pan Europe elections. Desperate to leave the Christian Democrat centre-right European Peoples' Party grouping which favours a federal EU, the Conservatives have so far only found allies in the Czech Republic.

OBAMA HAS IT TO LOSE

CONGRATULATIONS to Barack Obama for securing the Democrat Party's nomination for the US presidential election. With Hillary Clinton duly despatched, he can now go on to lose to Republican John McCain in November.

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