Labour minister Barry Gardiner has admitted that his party made the wrong choice when encouraging motorists to switch from petrol to diesel.
Gardiner, the shadow Environment minister, appeared on Channel Four’s Dispatches ‘The Great Car Con’ and said: “Hands up — there's absolutely no question that the decision we took was the wrong decision. But at that time we didn't have the evidence that subsequently we did have.”
He explained that the previous government were trying to reduce CO2 emissions when the new vehicle tax rates were introduced. This was in response to the 1997 Kyoto treaty, which aimed to combat greenhouse gases.
Gardiner continued: “We also [expected] cleaner diesel engines, which we thought meant that any potential problem was a lower-grade problem than the problem we were trying to solve of CO2.”
Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer when the new vehicle tax rates were introduced, said in 1998: “Diesel cars should attract less vehicle tax than their petrol equivalents because of their better CO2 performance”.
Though diesel engines do produce 15 per cent less CO2 than their petrol counterparts, they release four times more NO2 and 22 times more particulates, which are highly damaging to human health.
Gardiner added: “It was right to move away from vehicles that push out CO2, but the impact is a massive public health problem.
“The real tragedy is after we set up the committee on the medical effects of air pollution and it reported back in 2010 we’ve had five years that this government has done nothing about it.”
It’s understood that senior Conservatives have been lobbying to increase road taxes on diesel vehicles to bring them in line with petrol, however ministers have since ruled this out over fears of further penalising beleaguered motorists.
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