The World Bank may be meeting in Singapore, but in the UK the political party season has begun. First up it’s the Liberal Democrats. The environment and climate change will feature heavily like never before with the Tories and Lib Dems both trying to attract the green vote.He launched a nationwide grassroots drive to highlight the party’s commitment to tackling global warming and insisted he would win a conference debate over proposals to shift the burden of taxation from income tax to environmental charges.
Under tax plans to be debated by the party’s conference, environmental taxes would rise by £8bn a year to fund significant cuts in income tax for millions of families. Proposals include a sharp increase in the tax on aviation as well as sharp increases in car tax on the most polluting vehicles that would impose a £2,000 a year charge on new “Chelsea tractors” and an eight-fold increase in car tax on some family saloons.
But Sir Menzies faced a rebellion by at least six of the party’s MPs who were said to be supporting a challenge to his decision to drop the party’s “totemic” commitment to a 50p top rateof tax on earnings of more than £150,000 a year.
Evan Harris, the party’s science spokesman, said he had the backing of Sandra Gidley, John Leech, Norman Baker, Mike Hancock and Phil Willis. He said: “More and more people now recognise that the 50p top rate amendment makes the tax package even fairer, makes our intentions much clearer and builds on the proposals rather than simply harking back to our 2005 manifesto policy.”
Sir Menzies is also facing a second challenge from some rank-and-file activists who are attempting to drop the party’s new guarantee that all tax rises will be matched by cuts.
One source said the amendments proposed by activists in Canterbury would “drive a coach and horses” through the proposals from the party’s tax commission.
Yesterday, Sir Menzies attempted to play down the significance of the tax debate, insisting that it “is not High Noon”.
Vince Cable, the Treasury spokesman, said he was “confident” the tax policy would be adopted by delegates but warned a defeat would leave the leadership “facing some difficulty because our recommendations have not been accepted.”
Party sources denied reports claiming they were planning a new 1 per cent tax on property values but acknowledged they were still looking at the potential for future property taxes, despite their proposal to replace the council tax with a local income tax.
Addressing a rally of party activists last night, Sir Menzies declared that the party’s environmental tax policies were “the most radical ever from any major UK political party”.
Party sources said they were planning a grassroots campaign in local constituencies to put across the green credentials the party high command believe will be vital in dealing with the challenge posed by the resurgent Conservative party. Leaflets will encourage voters to switch to “green” energy suppliers and emphasise that the party wants to reward people who “do their bit” for the environment.
Sir Menzies insisted: “It will change polluters’ behaviour and help in the battle to safeguard our planet. It will also shift the tax burden from hard-working people and on to the polluter.”
He said Gordon Brown had presided over an increase in carbon dioxide emissions and a fall in the proportion of environmental taxation.David Cameron had made “all the right noises, but none of the right moves” on green issues.
Lib Dem leader, Sir Menzies Campbell made the environment the party’s biggest ever single-issue campaign yesterday as he outlined the party’s commitment to “green” taxation rather than income tax.
Under his new plans, environmental taxes would rise by £8bn a year to fund significant cuts in income tax for millions of families. Proposals include a sharp increase in the tax on aviation as well as sharp increases in car tax on the most polluting vehicles that would impose a £2,000 a year charge on new “SUVs” or “Chelsea tractors” and an eight-fold increase in car tax on some family saloons.
Meanwhile, elsewhere, British MPs have castigated the government for lacking ambition on bioenergy. The Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (Efracom) says the UK is lagging behind other countries, and is urging the government to go beyond its existing 5% target for biofuels in road transport, and promote bioenergy for heating homes and aviation.
“The government has got to show a much greater commitment, coherence and enthusiasm in the way it develops its bioenergy policies,” said Efracom chairman, Michael Jack MP. “For a nation that prides itself on its international leadership role on the climate change agenda, it’s not acceptable for Britain to lag behind so many other countries in the way that it is embracing bioenergy.”
However, it says that wide adoption of currently available biofuels could have serious consequences for land use with wildlife with diversity of plants and animals threatened.
So can green taxes change people’s behaviour. Are biofuels the answer or will they cause more problems than they solve? Let us know what you think..