February 25, 2007

Road Pricing

Back from holiday and what would I find waiting but the governments rather lame 'fuck off' letter about road pricing. They could at least not lie quite as blatantly.
Of course it would be ten years or more before any national scheme was technologically, never mind politically, feasible.
Because the EU has specified that all national road charging systems should be interoperable with ones that use the Gallileo GPS, and that will not be up and running until then. Ten years will not however have made any change to the civil liberties infringements that this will entail.
That is the backdrop to this issue. As my response makes clear, this is not about imposing "stealth taxes" or introducing "Big Brother" surveillance.
However it will impose "stealth taxes" and introducing "Big Brother" surveillance, no matter what the stated intentions are.
This is a complex subject, which cannot be resolved without a thorough investigation of all the options, combined with a full and frank debate about the choices we face at a local and national level.
Which is why the preparations for the road pricing scheme have already begun, and the revenues raised already factored into local government spending in these areas. But of course it is not about raising more money.
But let me be clear straight away: we have not made any decision about national road pricing.
The EU on the other hand has, so it doesn't really matter what Westminster says.
any technology used would have to give definite guarantees about privacy being protected - as it should be. Existing technologies, such as mobile phones and pay-as-you-drive insurance schemes, may well be able to play a role here, by ensuring that the Government doesn't hold information about where vehicles have been.
So are you going to scrap the Automatic Number Plate Recognition system that already lets the government track people's travel movements? No? I didn't think so.
Our aim is to relieve traffic jams, not create a "Big Brother" society.
With the explosion in CCTV coverage, the ANPR system, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act letting basically anybody that works for the state get a phone tap on anybody else, effectively banning encryption, curfews and electronic tagging based on hearsay evidence, house arrest without trial, shoot to kill policing, and the coming ID Cards the actions of this government say otherwise.
I know many people's biggest worry about road pricing is that it will be a "stealth tax" on motorists. It won't. Road pricing is about tackling congestion.
Pull the other one, it's got bells on. The government is out of money and needs new sources of revenue, everything else has been used as a not-so-stealth tax why should we be expected to believe that this won't.
Clearly if we decided to move towards a system of national road pricing, there could be a case for moving away from the current system of motoring taxation.
Yes there are, chances of it actually happening? Zero. Road Pricing money is being spent locally on other transport schemes (that is if it raises more than it costs to administer). They could manipulate the grants that the local councils get, but that would have to go on spending as the government is out of money.
This could mean that those who use their car less, or can travel at less congested times, in less congested areas, for example in rural areas, would benefit from lower motoring costs overall.
Note the use of could, a nice weasel word because it won't.
But those are decisions for the future.
At which point they will decide that all the old taxes have to stay. They cannot afford to get rid of them as government is already out of money.
At this stage, when no firm decision has been taken as to whether we will move towards a national scheme, stories about possible costs are simply not credible, since they depend on so many variables yet to be investigated, never mind decided.
Or rather, don't believe anything you have heard about how much it is going to cost as when it goes national. It is going to cost far far more than you imagined. But buying some stock in Capita might be a good idea.
Before we take any decisions about a national pricing scheme, we know that we have to have a system that works. A system that respects our privacy as individuals. A system that is fair.
Note in the first sentence of this bit "we know that we have to have a system that works", how can they if as has been lied about stated before nothing has been decided yet? Maybe a typo, but this is an email that is being sent out to 1.8 million people. If they cannot check a short email for meaning what they want it to mean how exactly can we expect them not to mess up an extremely complex and difficult project with some serious possible pitfalls in terms of cost and civil liberties? Or maybe it is a truth that slipped though and it means exactly what it says. They think the scheme that they have already selected will work, be fair, and respect people's privacy. It won't of course.
Before we take any decisions there would be further consultations.
Which will be ignored. Or, like the consultation about the governments new porn thought crimes due to be brought before the house in April, distorted till it gives the answer it wants.
The public will, of course, have their say, as will Parliament.
So long as they can be expected to give the correct answer. If not both can be safely ignored as the legislation for road pricing has already gone through in the form of the Transport Act 2000. The government could change this act to allow the revenues raised to be passed back to the national level, but this is unlikely. If they want to use road charging as a revenue raiser for central government they will do it indirectly by reducing the grants they give to local government and expect them to use road pricing (which will quickly become a hated tax on work) to fill the gap. Central government gets the money, local government gets the blame.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Must make you sick...that the Nazi-EU of all people, could scupper Blairs little plan to monitor us all.....what could end up being all the more galling is that the unelected Nazi-EU, though the...uhmm, elected, European Parliment, could end up resoluting the monitoring bit to death as an infingement to the Nazi-European Convention of Human Rights bit about the right to privacy. Have to see how that one plays out...though if the Europhobias get their wet dream, we could end up with total survilence alot quicker!

3:05 pm  
Blogger chris said...

Directive 2004/52/EC has already been in force for almost three years. It is not covered by Directive 95/46/EC as they can just use the state security matters universal get out clause (13), or they could use the carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority get out clauses (30). Nor is it covered by Directive 2002/58/EC as they can use the get out clause about protection of public security, defence, State security (including the economic well-being of the State when the activities relate to State security matters) and the enforcement of criminal law (11). This was translated into British law with The Road Tolling (Interoperability of Electronic Road User
Charging and Road Tolling Systems) Regulations 2007 Statutory Instrument.

In Directive 2004/52/EC and The Road Tolling (Interoperability of Electronic Road User
Charging and Road Tolling Systems) Regulations 2007 it is decided that the best system is one based on:

"All new electronic toll systems brought into service on or after 1 January 2007 shall, for carrying out electronic toll transactions, use one or more of the following technologies:
(a) satellite positioning;
(b) mobile communications using the GSM-GPRS standard (reference GSM TS 03.60/23.060);
(c) 5,8 GHz microwave technology"

Hence when it goes national it will be based on Galileo positioning data transmitted over GSM-GPRS to the central database. There is nothing that the EP can do about it as this directive as the EP has already passed it, not that the EP has any power to do anything about anything.

6:13 pm  

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