The Department of Transport (DfT) has re-iterated that councils will not be able to charge private cars as part of Clean Air Zones to be introduced to five cities in England by 2020.
It follows newspaper claims that ‘councils are being told to introduce congestion charging and bin taxes to enable Europe to achieve its target on climate change’.
The Sunday Express reported that the European Union Committee of the Regions’ Handbook for Local and Regional Authorities Delivering on the Europe 2020 Strategy was pushing ‘congestion charging for private car use in urban centres’.
Although the 2012 document only aims to provide guidance, Eurosceptic Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told the paper: ‘The European Commission doesn’t do guidance, it does diktats.’
Birmingham is one of five cities set to introduce Clean Air Zones
He added: ‘This is another example of our EU masters trying to by-pass our so-called sovereign Parliament by going directly to our local authorities with their edict.’
Tory MP Martin Vickers, a member of the Commons Transport Committee, told the paper: ‘This is typical of the European Union and its ever increasing interference. Local authorities are the ones to decide whether or not to introduce congestion charging or bin taxes without the need for any guidance from Brussels.’
In December the Government announced plans for Clean Air Zones which will give local authorities the power to charge the most polluting vehicles from entering air quality hotspots in Birmingham, Leeds, Southampton, Nottingham and Derby.
A spokesman for the DfT said: ‘We are clear that our common sense air quality measures will not hit private car owners. The Government’s Air Quality Action Plan, launched in December, contains proposals to give local authorities in five city centres the power to discourage some older types of buses, coaches, taxis and lorries from entering Clean Air Zones. Any proposals will be consulted on before they are introduced.’