From the Editor: July 2004

Oh dear! I don't seem to be able to open my mouth...

Oh dear! I don?t seem to be able to open my mouth without putting my G4 laptop in it. In the April issue I caused offence by suggesting that it?s difficult to support an extension to red diesel derogation on the grounds of affordability alone. Then last month I trampled roughshod over the finer feelings of the RYA by commenting that its stance on exemptions for breath-tests was discriminatory.

So who?s next? Well, no one. Because here at MBYwe are taking the calm, considered approach to the perceived threats to our freedom. We won?t be running around like headless chickens throwing everyone into a panic. Instead we have gone direct to the shipping minister (see our interview with him in this issue) to get the government?s take on breath-testing, light dues and registration. And we?ve taken a deep breath before looking at the realities of the red diesel debate. We will not be going into a flat-spin about this because it does nobody any good.

Consider the facts: we willlose our cheap fuel. If not in 2007, then shortly thereafter. Any extension of the derogation is likely to be very short. Instead of campaigning for cheap fuel because we couldn?t afford our luxury indulgence if diesel costs 90p a litre, we should be campaigning for parity with Europe. The reason we?re going to have to pay more is to bring us in line with other EU countries, so we ought to be saying ?fine, give us parity with Europe. We?ll pay 50p per litre, just like they do in France, Spain, Holland, Germany, etc?.

This is the only sensible option. MPs and the non-boating electorate are unlikely to be sympathetic to our cause, and given the inevitability of an increase in taxation on our fuel, we need to be realistic. At 50p a litre most people could still afford go cruising, and wouldn?t be forced into selling their boats or moving them abroad, while the government would get more revenue and be seen to be falling in line with Europe.
A fair and equitable solution, I feel.

The issue of light dues and registration is different. Registration is seen as the thin end of a tax wedge, and that?s something we want to avoid, but it would also bring a degree of security when buying and selling boats that is entirely absent at the moment. It seems that we would rather not have the government interfering in boating any more than is absolutely necessary, but what we want and what we get aren?t necessarily the same thing. It?s going to be difficult for politicians to ignore calls for light dues and the compulsory registration that would go with it when those calls come from powerful big-ship lobbies.

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At the moment it appears that everyone is against us, but much of that is to do with timing. We may find that the whole lot blows over and nothing much changes in the next couple of years. Or we may find ourselves under increasing scrutiny from the government. At the moment we don?t actually know which way things will go, but whatever happens you can be sure that MBYwill cover it in a calm, considered fashion.



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