I understand FairFuelUK has expressed concern about any further financial pressures on drivers and in particular the potential for a “toxin tax” for diesel cars.
In 2016 the UK Government was told to strengthen its plans to tackle air pollution after a judicial review found its proposals were unlawful and “woefully inadequate”. Mr Justice Garnham said the 2015 Air Quality Plan failed to comply with the Supreme Court judgments and EU directives. The Government was ordered to produce a draft plan by 24 April 2017 and a final one by 31 July 2017. The Government indicated it was considering measures to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides from diesel cars.
Nearly 40 million people in Britain live in areas with illegal levels of air pollution It is vital that urgent action is taken to clean up our air. Nevertheless, I appreciate high fuel prices are already having a serious impact on household budgets and businesses in our Ipswich and across the country. I believe any future diesel policy must avoid penalising the 12 million diesel drivers who bought their vehicles in good faith.
On 5 May 2017 the Government published its draft plan on air quality, which includes proposals for Clean Air Zones, a new £23 million fund for hydrogen vehicles and a £64 million fund to promote the uptake of electric taxis. In relation to a tax on diesel vehicles the Government has said it will explore the best options within 12 months.
I agree that air pollution is not just about taxing private cars. We must consider action to tackle air pollution in the context of a move to a greener and more efficient public transport system, not just in Ipswich but in the whole of UK. I would also like to see a new Clean Air Act and a truly coherent network of clean air zones across the UK in order to effectively tackle the chronic problem of air pollution.
I understand that as part of its manifesto FairFuelUK has called for a body to regulate the cost of fuel and that a related petition to Parliament received over 30,000 signatures. I believe that it is important to ensure competition is working and that falls in the price of oil are reflected in the price we pay at the pump. The Government said in response to the petition that it monitors the price of fuel and does not believe a new regulator is necessary.
FairFuelUK has also raised the important problem of investment in roads. The UK has been ranked behind 26 other countries on road quality and I am concerned that despite promises of investment in our major roads very little of this work has been started. We need long-term investment in strategic roads and to address the neglect of local roads, and I will continue to support these priorities.