Innovative firm gets the chance to make its mark
THE Chancellor’s Budget speech lasted for more than an hour. It was accompanied by masses of further material – hundreds of pages – which set out all the proposals in detail.
In among all those pages of detail was one which is of great significance to a company based in Chalfont St Giles, Zero-m Ltd, which has been working since 2001 on developing an alternative fuel – aqua methanol.
It is a diesel substitute fuel, so it could reduce the air pollution and health risks associated with conventional diesel.
Back in 2001, Peter Dodd, my constituent, accompanied a senior civil servant from the Department for Transport on a journey in a London black cab.
It was no ordinary cab because it was converted to run on aqua methanol and it emitted virtually no poisonous particulates or nitrogen oxides.
Using the fuel could make a big difference to street-level air pollution and to air quality in the UK. The company has been working on the possibilities of introducing vans and heavy goods vehicles which can use aqua methanol.
The problem was that diesel fuel and new alternative fuels are taxed on a different basis. The chance to change this to a more equitable level was lost just a few weeks ago, after the Budget, when the opposition decided to remove its backing for a new duty level.
Shortly before the Budget, I had the chance to highlight this to the House of Commons in an adjournment debate, and the response of ministers at the time was favourable.
The notes accompanying the Budget on July 8 said: “The government will legislate to apply a reduced rate of fuel duty to aqua methanol in Finance Bill 2016.”
That will, I hope, see a change to the duty levels from March next year.
It is great news and, since then, I’ve had confirmation that this locally-based company will be able to go ahead with commercial trials for goods vehicles. This is just the kind of innovation and enterprise that we need and I’m glad a Buckinghamshire company is tackling this challenge with such vigour.