Motor Vehicle Bill – 2008

February 20th, 2008 - Pat Breen

^ Motor Vehicle (Duties and Licences) Bill 2008: Second Stage (Resumed). ^

20th February, 2008

Deputy Pat Breen: I welcome the opportunity to highlight some of the pitfalls of the Bill currently before us. I concur with my colleague, Deputy Noonan, that some of the Bill’s measures are unfair and I urge the Minister to consider changes to the current proposals. We all welcome the move to address Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions. The EU considers Ireland to have a high carbon footprint and has demanded that we reduce our greenhouse gases by 20% from 2005 levels by 2020. We are one of three countries to be so targeted, along with Denmark and Luxembourg. The argument is often made about climate change that we must choose between the economy and the environment but this is not the case. We can effect change at little cost if the Government takes action and its policies give people time to adapt.

When he attends meetings around the world, Al Gore’s message is that we should drive less. If the Government is serious about tackling climate change it needs to invest in rail infrastructure so that consumers have a reliable and efficient alternative. I welcome the Government’s commitment to open the western rail corridor, for which we all campaigned. It is a good move and I hope the railway line will be open by next year. However, I have some concerns about the Limerick-Galway line. Many Members will have seen on television recently that part of the Ennis-Limerick line is flooded. The line has been closed for about three weeks due to flooding at Ballycar, Newmarket-on-Fergus, which is affecting many people. Between 600 and 700 people a day use that service from Ennis to Limerick, but as a result of the line closure they must drive their cars, thus congesting the roads, or take buses into Limerick. However, buses do not constitute the most efficient means of travel. I urge the Minister and his officials to address this difficulty. The OPW and Iarnród Éireann have had talks on the situation but I urge the Government and Iarnród Éireann to take steps to raise the line at Ballycar in order to resolve the problem. This work was to have been undertaken ten years ago but unfortunately it was not done. If the railway continues to be flooded for one or two months per year it will affect the line’s viability. In addition, if the matter is not resolved, it will also affect the viability of the Ennis to Galway line which is due to open next year.

A commuter stop at Crusheen on the Ennis-Athenry line was included in the north Clare area plan. Clare County Council is supportive of the project but Iarnród Éireann has said it will not locate a stop there. I had hoped the matter could be resolved as Crusheen is a large growth area with a catchment including Tulla, Clooney, Ruan and Barefield. It would help if people could park their cars at Crusheen before commuting to Galway, Ennis or Limerick. Therefore I urge Iarnród Éireann to establish a stop at Crusheen on this commuter line.

To revert to the essence of what we are discussing in the context of this Bill, the car industry is already adapting to the development of fuel-efficient cars but the German government has reservations about it. The EU was trying to cut down pollution late last year but the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said she was not in favour of the proposal which would not be economically favourable for Germany given the fact that many large car manufacturers are located there, such as Porsche, Mercedes and BMW. The latter company is totally against the new EU measures, which it believes will distort the market. Meanwhile, French car manufacturers like Peugeot say the measures will favour non-European car makers.

Car ownership in Ireland is growing at 5% annually and passenger cars account for over 10% of CO2 emissions. According to the latest census figures, 84.8% of households in County Clare own at least one car. With public transport not an option in rural Ireland, people need cars to travel to work. Some commuters have already chosen to drive low-emission cars and many to whom I have spoken are critical of the new motor taxation system which they feel is unfair. Instead of encouraging motorists to contribute to climate change, the system penalises them.

I am delighted to see the Minister, Deputy Gormley, in the Chamber again. I listened to his earlier contribution as I was doing some research this morning. He said his officials had examined the alternatives but that they were not appropriate. He also said that no data on CO2 emissions were available for cars prior to 2001. The Minister has rushed this proposal through without looking at the implications, so he should re-examine the matter.

My understanding is that CO2 emissions ratings relate to cars manufactured since 2001. I know a person who bought a Volkswagen Golf 1.9 TDI last week and paid motor tax of some €560. If this person bought the same car after 1 July, the emissions tax payable would be only €150. A system where one person must pay more than another to purchase the same model of car, manufactured in the same country and producing the same emissions is unfair. To add insult to injury, owners of existing cars that are still being taxed at the old rate are facing an increase of 11%. This is another stealth tax. How can one justify the increase in respect of small cars that are already environmentally friendly?

Motor manufacturers are trying to curb this EU move to reduce carbon pollution. Many German manufacturers, for example, are concerned at what will become of the motor industry in that country. Problems will arise after 1 July in regard to the purchase of second-hand cars. In particular, garages near the Border will experience difficulties because it will be cheaper for people to purchase second-hand cars in the North. Second-hand cars will be left on the forecourts of garages. We saw what happened in garages in Border areas some years ago as a consequence of the difference in the price of petrol and diesel in the two jurisdictions. Many of these garages closed down.

The Minister should review these unfair provisions. Deputy Noonan referred to them as a mere tax collection measure. The Government must begin thinking outside the box in an effort to reduce Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions. The programme for Government commits to a 3% reduction per year. However, if the Government continues to introduce ill thought out proposals such as these, it will not reach its target. I ask the Minister to consider the example I gave of the car that is subject to motor tax of €560 now but only €150 in four months time. This is representative of an inequitable and unfair system that must be reviewed.

ENDS