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Letter to Chancellor urges VED changes

Date: 21 November 2017   |   Author: Rachel Boagey

In a letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, various health associations have urged changes to the UK tax regime to improve air pollution.

The letter identifies diesel vehicles as a major source of pollution in towns and cities, and recommends a change to the Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) first year rate to "send a vital signal to the market about the direction of travel towards a cleaner future". 

A study by Policy Exchange recently proposed an additional £800 charge for all new diesel cars on their VED first year rate, which could generate £500 million a year to fund measures to tackle air pollution.

However, health campaigners point out that while this covers the damage caused by the extra nitrogen dioxide (NOx) diesel cars emit compared with their petrol counterparts it is still a conservative figure, and could be higher if the findings of the Department for Transport's investigation into diesel car emissions were applied. 

The letter, signed by 13 health campaigners including John Sauven, chief executive of Greenpeace, and Craig Bennett, chief executive of Friends of the Earth, reads:

"Air pollution affects all of us but for the 12 million people who live with a lung condition and the seven million people who have cardiovascular disease in the UK, air pollution poses a daily risk to their health and may force them into hospital or worse. We all deserve to breathe clean air. 

"Your own tests have revealed even the newest diesel cars emit more than six times more NOx on the road than the laboratory test limits for the latest Euro 6 standard. It is, therefore, perverse to maintain a tax regime that still encourages people and businesses to buy diesel vehicles. Particularly as the new Real Driving Emissions test will still allow new diesel cars to exceed emissions limits on the road by a factor of 2.1 until 2021 and 1.5 after that."

In the letter, campaigners also argue for the money raised to be used to help fund measures to tackle air pollution, such as a targeted scrappage scheme for lower income drivers and small businesses.

"This scheme should offer a vehicle exchange in return for help with the cost of a less polluting hybrid vehicle, a zero-emission vehicle such as electric or subsidised car club membership, free public transport season tickets or e- bike purchase loan."

The letter concludes: "We urge you to back this proposed change to VED to protect people's health and ensure the UK does not miss out on the economic opportunities offered by embracing ultra-low-emission vehicles."