Following my courting of the opprobium of fashionable libertarian opinion by suggesting that there IS a place for black boxes in cars (though not, and I dealt with this in the post, the enforcement of speeding offenses) I will now be less controversial.
The RAC has suggested that some form of road pricing is “inevitable“, but that this should come with a cut in fuel duty and road tax. Fair enough, and I think this Government could pull such a reasonable compromise off. However I WOULD have privacy concerns if records had to be kept about where and when I had been, and that is my principle concern about road pricing. True, most of the public care not a jot about their privacy in such matters, but I do. But there are practical concerns too: The administration of this would require technological deployment on a vast scale nationwide, and a huge bureaucracy to administer it. There would be inevitable errors as someone is billed hundreds for a journey on the other end of the country they couldn’t have taken. There will be a massive increase in car cloning.
The only advantage is that road pricing reflects the usage of the road at different times. And as a believer in markets, I have some sympathy with this. But given people’s commute is already miserable, and councils’ track record for parking offenses, do we really want to give another opportunity for profiteering? The problem is not the principle, it’s the complexity of administration, and there are likely to be arbitary injustices as a result of simplification. It will also inevitably contain exemptions for favoured groups. Teachers HAVE to face the school run. Nurses work odd shifts which may coincide with rush hour. Does anyone think the police will pay?
We already have a tax, paid by everyone except farmers that reflects the distance driven, the speed you drive and the engine you use (and yes, eco-weenies, the carbon-dioxide you produce). This tax is called fuel duty. It may not reflect rush hour, but that is more than made up for by the simplicity of administration: from the point of view of Government: it collects itself. It’s fair. It’s unambigous. We don’t need separate road taxes. Cut everything, except fuel duty.