Did he lie or did he make a mistake? Was the man deceiving motorists or was he merely responsible for a fatal error? And if he is guilty of miscalculating some crucially important figures and facts, are we talking about accidental or deliberate blunders? In other words, was he being honest or dishonest? I’m not accusing. I’m just asking. And others – Parliament, the Courts, the cash-rich motoring organisations and members of the public – should be asking the same sort of not-unreasonable questions of the man who, frankly, has a lot to answer for.
Who is he? Alistair Darling, who introduced new or heavily modified motoring taxes in his controversial Budget earlier this month. They looked and sounded unfair, cynical and outrageously punitive. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer assured us of the following: “As a result of these reforms, the majority of motorists will be better or no worse off in 2009.”
The message from him and his Treasury department was clear: despite his new VED system, plus the introduction of an extra layer of taxation on factory-fresh models, only a minority of drivers will be required to pay higher car-related taxation, with most of us handing over the same as before or less.
The inference was even clearer: that the relatively tiny band of motorists who would need to cough up more tax cash would be those who insist on driving thirsty, dirty 4x4s and other ‘gas-guzzlers.’ Fair enough. The many pay the same or lower motoring taxes, while the few pay more. Or so we were led to believe.
The truth appears to be very different. It now seems clear that nine out of 10 drivers – a majority, if ever there was one – will pay higher motoring taxes. There are several complicated reasons for this, but one is that tax on 88 per cent of models will rise. To add insult to injury, the drivers of some small, fuel-sipping, comparatively clean and gutless superminis favoured by the young and the cash-strapped will face a 24 per cent hike in motoring taxation.
At the same time, drivers of the largest, petrol-gulping and dirtiest heavy-duty off-roaders, limousines and sports cars will shell out only 14 per cent extra in tax. Also, it’s widely accepted that Darling’s latest motoring duty reforms will gross him an additional £1,000million or thereabouts. All this equates to a lucrative tax grab. How come, when the majority are supposed to be paying the same or less?
Deliberately or otherwise, something has gone worryingly wrong here. Hasn’t the motoring public been at best grossly misinformed or at worst, lied to? Like I said, I’m only asking.
A dishonest motorist who stands before a magistrate and stupidly attempts to pervert the course of justice by telling lies about a speeding offence can and will go to jail – and may have to live with a ‘perjurer’ tag around his neck for the rest of his life. Seems to me that at the very least, there should be a formal investigation to decide whether Alistair Darling and his Treasury department were equally stupid, made genuine mistakes, were less than honest or blatantly lied to car owners at or around Budget time.
If a motorist trying to pull the wool over the eyes of a magistrate can go to jail, what punishment befits a ruling politician who might be guilty of, at the very least, hoodwinking Parliament and the motoring public? Or was it deception, fraud or lying?