Chris Green MP: Interesting times ahead for us all
The ancient Chinese phrase ‘May you live in interesting times’ is not a hope that you will enjoy fun and exciting events but that you will suffer a turbulent and troubled life.
We seem to be mired in problems at the moment.
We are in and heading into deeper problems with a cost of living crisis which is going to have such a bad impact on so many people’s daily lives.
Many are already finding making ends meet difficult and it is set to get worse with more taxes and the inevitable inflation which follows the printing of money.
Track and Trace, furlough and all the other measures put in place to deal with the coronavirus pandemic are immensely expensive and the emerging cost of living crisis is the logical consequence of those actions.
This is why I have been challenging the Government on whether they have the right balance in their approach.
The troubling proposals for the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone have now caused a kerfuffle.
I have been challenging local and national government over these plans, which are going to do so much damage to our economy, whilst having the barest impact in improving our air quality.
For years, the European Union and national governments pushed and demanded that more people drove diesel cars to cut carbon emissions but this meant that nitrous oxide emissions shot up.
The worst affected areas are in the cities of Salford and Manchester but our local political leadership agreed with Westminster to impose the worst model possible.
Wigan, or any other council, did not have to participate in a Greater Manchester wide scheme so could have done one that best suited local needs and interests.
Transport for Greater Manchester wrote to me to say that I was wrong to suggest that the current proposals could be a stepping stone to including domestic vehicles.
TfGM said that it would require a public consultation before that could happen. It would probably be as effective a consultation as the one that chose this model in the first place. Very few people knew about this scheme until the signs and cameras started popping up everywhere.
If consultations were so effective at engaging with public opinion, then why has the backlash against the scheme been so strong?
I am not reassured that this is not a stepping stone to including your family car.
As we emerge from the shadow of the coronavirus, we are told that so many more people are now working from home and that changes to commuting and work practices are going to be profound and long lasting.
Combining that insight with all new vehicles, whether petrol, diesel or electric, being so much cleaner, do we now need the GM CAZ scheme?
We need a pause to protect businesses and to assess whether it is fit for purpose.
Electric vehicles are often seen as the future of road transport but few people stop to consider what will power them. Unreliable weather dependent sources of energy, such as wind or solar, could see that national fleet of cars immobilised when the wind stops blowing and cloud obscures the sun.
Surely, if we are going to go down the route of every household replacing their car then we need to be confident that they can be fully charged so we can get to work and enjoy life.
Nuclear is the only reliable source that meets our needs which is why I am so pleased that Hinckley C is making good progress and Rolls Royce are fast developing their plans for small modular reactors.
We do not have to look back too far to remember how much more polluted our air and water were but technological advances are making our lives so much healthier. Actually, interesting times may not be so bad after all.
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