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Cameron fuels green tax debate

Date: 14 March 2007   |   Author: Hugh Hunston

David Cameron

Tax breaks for biofuels could be introduced by a future Tory government, according to the party's leader David Cameron, who said the fleet and retail sectors needed a greater variety of "green cars" to choose from.

Speaking after opening a new production line in Coventry for Modec, which produces electric urban delivery vehicles, Cameron said: "We have to be smart as a government in thinking about steps which would encourage green transport behaviour. With biofuels, tax breaks could be a part of the process."

He added: "When it comes to different technologies it is not up to politicians to prescribe what is right or wrong. [But] there may well be changes to taxation required to kick-start the market. We saw that with discrimination in favour of unleaded petrol to encourage widespread use."

Maintaining that climate change was an "incredibly exciting challenge" rather than a depressing threat to the automotive sector, Cameron stated it was not enough for governments to pass laws while businesses bore the brunt of them, saying "simplicity is the key" to incentive schemes which encourage business and retail drivers to switch to greener vehicles.

Cameron, who drives a hybrid Lexus GS450h, revealed that he had been involved with businesses, which felt "great frustration" with Powershift, and "Government intervention, with complicated, beaurocratic schemes launched and then withdrawn".

He believed "white van man can become green van man" but advocated "many more green cars with a greater variety across brands, sizes and types of models. If green driving choices do not suit everyone's needs it limits progress. If green cars are woefully inferior or their prices are far higher the environmental agenda will not take off."

A Conservative government would set an overall framework but be "quite aggressive with long-range targets for reducing vehicle emissions in terms of CO2 per kilometre."

The Tory leader expressed misgivings about "state-controlled big brother" road pricing schemes "taking as much money as possible out of people's pockets and putting it into a big national basket.

"We need much more local determination and locally specific schemes. I am not surprised 1.6 million people wrote to Number 10 on this issue. It must be seen to be fair and people want it to be spent directly on roads."