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In a late addition to the Finance Bill, Chancellor Alistair Darling has proposed two new taxes, both said to be based on a desire to have a ‘greener and healthier’ Britain.
The chewing gum tax will increase the cost of a packet of chewing gum to £4.50 from April 2009. This tax (as well as similar massive increases in the tax on chewing tobacco and Betel nuts) has been justified on the basis of the huge cost of gum removal and the public health issues raised by products that encourage public expectoration – said to be one of the main factors behind the rising number of cases of tuberculosis.
These measures are contained in the Treasury Order for Safeguarding Health (TOSH) of 1 April 2008.
The caravan tax is justified on the basis of the economic loss to the country caused because of the build-up of slow-moving queues of traffic,
especially in country areas, due to caravans. The Government’s press release claims that not only is excessive fuel used and time lost, but many accidents are caused when frustrated drivers try to overtake slow-moving caravans. The Chancellor claims that the revenues raised by the tax (£250 pa per caravan) will be used to improve roads in areas which suffer most from caravan congestion.
A spokesman for the Caravan Club predicted that its normally-placid members might feel they are being backed into a corner by the Chancellor, and predicted a summer of disruption as furious caravanners drive even more slowly in protest over this discriminatory measure. It is said that politically active elements of the caravan fraternity are considering organising a blockade of the M5 on bank holiday weekend in protest (not that anyone would be likely to notice). Mr Darling denied that a tractor tax is also being considered.
This measure is contained in the Caravans (Regulations And Procedures) Bill, also dated 1 April 2008.