Diesel ban by stealth?
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.