At last there is a chance to persuade the Government to step back from a fresh ‘Omnishambles’ proposal – the idea that there should be a two-tier road tax. Motorists paying the lower rate would be confined to driving only on local and smaller A-roads. Drivers paying the higher rate could spend all day driving round the M25 at no extra cost if they wanted to. This policy is under consideration but has not yet been given the go-ahead.
What would happen to some poor motorist who had paid the lower rate and started driving along a major A-road or even a motorway? Well, automatic number-plate recognition cameras would soon identify the rogue vehicle.
Think about this for a moment. It would insert a new class distinction into British society – between poor motorists and well-to-do motorists – which is the last thing we want. It doesn’t sit easily with the notion of us being "all in it together”. Or, to put it more generally, it emphasizes the gap between the haves and the have nots. It would be a mini version of George Osborne’s Omnishambles Budget when he reduced the top rate of income tax at the same time as announcing a range of measures that would fall on those with smaller incomes.
Now drawing attention to the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, particularly acute in the USA and Britain, is not just a rhetorical flourish or an empty debating point. It refers to the fact that when a comparison is made between rich countries, those with high levels of inequality have more health and social problems than those with a less inequality. So it should be a ‘given’ of public policy that measures that would exacerbate the damaging loss of self-esteem, concerns about position and a growing sense of the ‘unfairness of it all’ that inequality breeds should be avoided. Which is why the Coalition should spend no more time considering a two-tier road tax.