Monday, March 12, 2007

Brown on the Environment

Gordon Brown is giving a speech on climate change today to the Green Alliance. In it I suspect he will highlight Ukrainian tractor production and bore people stiff.

However he will also seek to trash George Osbourne's announcement on taxing air travel.

The Conservative party's position on air travel seems to be this:

We need to cut the growth in air travel because it is the fastest area of growth in green house gases.

The Conservative party are issuing a consultation process, that is about to start and has not yet even finished.

The bones of the consultation are these:

Air travel within the UK will be subject to VAT. (Given that tampons and sanitary towels are I can't see this as controversial, after all you could catch a train, but I dread to think what the alternatives are for "sanitary products", I think air travel is a bit more of a luxury especially as I have to pay VAT on the fuel I put in my car, but apparently it might be.)

Individuals will get a personal air travel allowance, on which either they will not be taxed, or at least they will not be taxed any more.

Taxes will be aimed at the dirtiest engines.

People traveling above and beyond their personal allowance will pay a higher rate of tax on air travel.

All the extra tax raised with this tax will be taken off other taxes. So for every billion raised will be used to reduce tax elsewhere.

Now going back to Gordon's speech to the Green Alliance. In it Gordon will criticise the Conservative position thus:

"Changes must be considered, costed, credible and consumer friendly not ill-conceived, short-termist, unworkable and unfair."

Well let us consider his critique:

I wont go into whether it is costed, it is after all a consultation paper, it does have to be credible, and if Gordon can highlight how it is not credible, lets here it.

Consumer friendly? Well the idea here is to reduce consumption surely?

Short termist? Umm? What like reducing tax on air travel one year and then increasing it a few years later on the grounds you now want to save the planet? Oh, and failing to pass the relevant legislation to make it legal whilst just using the money to will the treasuries coffers?

Unworkable? I am not sure Gordon has carried out a full analysis of how these proposals will work, largely because the consultation paper has not been published. Clearly he is talking nonsense.

Unfair? In what way exactly?

Currently Gordon Brown is either just raising yet another stealth tax with is currently illegal hike in airport taxes or his aim is to raise airport taxes to such a level as to reduce demand.

Airport tax at the moment is per journey. So if you raise the tax to stop some people flying the first to suffer will be the poor who will be taxed put of air travel all together. Is that fair? No.

On the other hand the Conservative proposals will allow everyone some tax free flights and aim to hit the more frequent and presumably wealthy fliers. Looks a lot fairer to me.

Mind you I don't suppose it will help that Director of the Green Alliance, Stephen Hale has said "the Conservatives' proposals on aviation fuel would take them ahead of where the government are at present, if they see it through."

You can read the BBC's report here.

The shame of it all is of course that Gordon, and indeed the Labour party could have waited to see more detailed proposals, but instead just wishes to be combative.


Anonymous said...

After years of being knocked from pillar to post, the Tories have got the initiative. Whatever Brown says, it will look weak.

Benedict White said...

Fr, yes we have. Gordon seems to be sticking to the international agreement line whilst Whitehall is emitting more carbon dioxide year on year. Obviously if the British goverment can cut green house gasses in its own buildings!

Anonymous said...

I laughed at a report in one of the newspapers where they announced that Gordon Brown would "slap down the tory proposals".
I know that he is fond of that method when dealing with any criticism or original thinking in his own party, but I don't think his opinion carries that much weight in the Conservative party.

Benedict White said...

chatterbox, Yes I don't think we are running scared on that one!

Mind you what is laughable is that the Green allaince are more on our side than his! I wonder how Gordon's speech will go!

BTW, do you have a link?

Anonymous said...

If you live in Orkney, Shetland, Lewis, Harris, North Uist, Barra, South Uist, Benbecula, Antrim,Londonderry, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh or Tyrone then the train is not an alternative

Unknown said...

Benedict, you can hardly expect Brown to be all sweetness and light in the face of the Tory proposals, the shame, surely, is that after ten years, when Labour signed Kyoto during their first year, Labour have nothing to point to as progress.

The climate change levy just doesn't cut it (does GB still criticise the Tories for opposing it? It has been an irrelevance pretty much).

Perhaps GB is keeping his powder dry so Tony can't claim the credit, but we are so far behind countries like Japan and Germany it is pathetic.

A policy like a million wind turbines for council houses would really put some clear red water between the parties. Would Cameron support that?

Anonymous said...

Benedict, it was an article by Michael White and Dan Milmo.,,2031764,00.html

Anonymous said...

Sorry seem unable to get the link to work.
It is in the politics section in the Guardian on line.

Benedict White said...

Anonymous, This is why the proposals are out for consultation.

Timothy, I don't know about wind turbines for council houses, it may be difficult to get enough from them, though small scale micro generation is on our agenda with Combined heat and power boilers for example.

It has to be said that solar water heating looks quite good to me.

As for this governments record it is dismal. In fact it is worse than the previous Conservative administration.

Benedict White said...

Chatterbox, many thanks for the link which worked in the email I got,,,2031764,00.html

Laughable isn't it?

Brown says we need international action? Well I don't think Cameron is yet in a position to negotiate international treaties so that is rubbish. Then again what would we expect from Brown?