Diesel ban by stealth?

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In this col­umn back in April I pre­dicted that it wouldn’t be too long be­fore the diesel Land Rovers that we love so much would be un­der threat from en­vi­ron­men­tal zealots. The ink was hardly dry when a help­ful politi­cian de­cided to make a name for him­self by do­ing just that. His name is Geraint Davies and he’s Labour MP for Swansea West.

Mr Davies lists his po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests on his web­site as “Trea­sury, trade and in­dus­try, hous­ing, chil­dren’s is­sues, trans­port, en­vi­ron­ment, hu­man rights and equal­ity.” But in fact he’s be­ing un­duly mod­est there, be­cause since be­com­ing an MP in 2010 he has bus­ied him­self sup­port­ing many and var­ied wor­thy causes, in­clud­ing World Toi­let Day 2015. Flushed with his suc­cess there, he went on to back the Columbian Peace Process. He was also one of just 69 MPS who sup­ported a bid to “seek le­gal recog­ni­tion for peo­ple who do not wish to be as­so­ci­ated with a par­tic­u­lar gen­der”.

De­spite this ver­i­ta­ble whirl of po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, Mr Davies has some­how found the time to spon­sor his very own Pri­vate Mem­ber’s Bill. At the time of writ­ing, the Air Qual­ity (Diesel Emis­sions in Ur­ban Cen­tres) Bill 2015-16 was due to get its sec­ond read­ing in the House of Com­mons on April 22.

The sum­mary of the Bill says it aims to: “Make pro­vi­sion about ur­ban air qual­ity tar­gets; to re­quire ve­hi­cle emis­sions tar­gets and test­ing to re­flect on-road driv­ing con­di­tions; to pro­vide pow­ers for lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to es­tab­lish low diesel emis­sions zones and pedes­trian-only ar­eas; to re­strict the use of roads in ur­ban cen­tres by diesel ve­hi­cles; to make pro­vi­sion about the pro­mo­tion of the devel­op­ment of elec­tric tram sys­tems and buses and taxis pow­ered by liq­ue­fied pe­tro­leum gas in ur­ban cen­tres; and for con­nected pur­poses.”

It all sounds pretty in­nocu­ous – not to men­tion mind­numb­ingly dull – un­til you read the small print. Sec­tion 2( b) of the Bill re­quires lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to “es­tab­lish and ex­tend low diesel emis­sion zones and re­strict the ac­cess of diesel ve­hi­cles that fail Euro 5 emis­sions stan­dards to spec­i­fied ur­ban ar­eas.”

LRM reader Philip Vance, who kindly alerted me to this wor­ry­ing bit of leg­is­la­tion, points out: “This would in ef­fect ban all diesel Land Rovers made be­fore 2011. What would be deemed an ur­ban area? A com­plete city or town?”

In­deed. As the owner of two ven­er­a­ble diesels (a 1984 Ninety and a 1996 Dis­cov­ery) that would both most def­i­nitely fail Euro 5, I’m very in­ter­ested to learn what Mr Davies con­sid­ers to be an ur­ban area.

I live in the coun­try­side, in a small vil­lage, but I ob­vi­ously drive to towns and cities. I have no op­tion, be­cause ru­ral pub­lic trans­port op­tions in Bri­tain range from in­fre­quent to non-ex­is­tent.

De­spite this, in the same Bill Mr Davies seeks to in­vest in elec­tric tram sys­tems and Lpg-pow­ered buses and taxis for – wait for it – ur­ban ar­eas. Pre­sum­ably he’s so en­grossed in fight­ing his favourite left-field causes he hasn’t no­ticed the trans­port poverty in the coun­try­side – which is re­mark­able as some of the very worst is to be found on his very own doorstep, in the de­prived ar­eas of ru­ral Wales.

If Mr Davies’ ill-con­ceived Bill was to be­come law, I wouldn’t be able to go shopping. So I’d go hun­gry. Ac­tu­ally, it’s worse than that, be­cause it would pre­vent farm­ers from get­ting to mar­ket. So we’d all starve to death.

Through­out my adult life, I’ve of­ten been dis­mayed by the ac­tions of a mi­nor­ity of left­wing MPS who seem to have devoted their ca­reers to get­ting in­volved in ob­scure causes all over the world while do­ing next to noth­ing for the poor folk who voted them in. Mr Davies has gone one bet­ter by propos­ing a Bill that would make the lives of many of his con­stituents con­sid­er­ably worse.

The good news, of course, is that Mr Davies is a Labour MP in a Tory- dom­i­nated Par­lia­ment, which means his Bill stands lit­tle chance of be­com­ing law. I doubt if many of his Labour col­leagues would back it ei­ther, with­out sub­stan­tial amend­ments.

But there is no room for com­pla­cency. We still need to stay alert in the fu­ture for this sort of leg­is­la­tion by stealth, as this is­sue won’t go away. We will still need to fight for our diesel Land Rovers. Just watch this space.

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