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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 April 2006, 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK
Lib Dem green challenge to Tories
Sir Menzies Campbell
Sir Menzies wants cross party co-operation
Sir Menzies Campbell has challenged David Cameron to sign up to a cross-party plan on the environment.

The Lib Dem leader urged the Tory leader to agree to five broad "green principles" that would underpin policy.

Green issues have become a key battleground at next month's local elections after Mr Cameron urged voters to "vote blue, go green".

But the Lib Dems argue progress can not be made until there is cross party agreement on the way forward.

In a speech in Norwich earlier on Thursday, Sir Menzies urged the Conservative leader to agree that:

  • Green taxes should be used to change behaviour

  • Green taxes - including excise duty on fuel - should not fall in real terms from year to year

  • There should be a substantial increase in the top rate of Vehicle Excise Duty

  • The climate change levy should be reformed into a universal carbon tax - including household emissions as well as business emissions

  • Air passenger duty should be restructured as a tax on aircraft emissions, not passengers

Sir Menzies said: "These steps are common sense and they do not require 18 months of deliberation by a policy review.

"Indeed, some of them may well require votes during the debates on the Finance Bill.

"I have written to David Cameron today, making clear that, provided we can reach agreement on these five points, the possibility exists of a strong cross-party agenda to reform our tax system so that it rewards green behaviour.

"But let me make it clear: these principles are a minimum test of commitment. Without these simple but serious steps, a cross-party agreement on climate change is impossible.

"Let me also add to the government: anyone who believes there is a moral dimension to climate change would have no difficulty in embracing these ideas."

The Lib Dem leader also said he would push for international agreements on "effective targets" for the environment - as well as changes to individuals' lifestyles.


The measures set out in Sir Menzies' speech were backed by the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace.

But the Green Party branded Sir Menzies' speech an "act of desperation".

Green principal speaker Keith Taylor said: "In the contest of who can sound greenest the Lib Dems are trailing badly. Their environmental record is blighted by the actions of Lib Dem controlled local councils.

"In Manchester, Sheffield, Edinburgh, York and Liverpool have all made dreadful environmental decisions."

Norwich Lib Dems had backed airport expansion, proving the party was "capable of saying one thing and doing the complete opposite," added Mr Taylor.


David Cameron sparked the current political tussle over green issues when he committed the Tories to reducing carbon emissions from cars by nearly a third.

The target would mean virtually all cars on Britain's roads would have to be powered by new technologies such as hybrid motors.

He has declined to say whether he would increase vehicle excise duty for gas-guzzling vehicles or impose a green tax on air flights which produce high levels of greenhouse gases.

Detailed policies will not be unveiled until Mr Cameron's environment policy group, chaired by former minister John Gummer, reports back next year.

Labour has accused Mr Cameron of "flip-flopping" on green issues and of using "platitudes" after he said he wanted a "green revolution".

In his March Budget, Chancellor Gordon Brown announced a zero-rate road tax for low-emission cars but none of the models that would be eligible are currently on sale in the UK.

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