■ Treasury ‘looks to road pricing’ as sales of electric cars rise
MOTORISTS could be charged for using Britain’s roads under plans reportedly being considered by chancellor Rishi Sunak.
The Times newspaper reported a move would be to cover a tax shortfall of £40billion caused by the rise in popularity of electric cars.
The UK currently has one major toll road — the M6 Toll in the West Midlands (above) — and drivers also face levies when using some tunnels and bridges.
According to the report, Mr Sunak is ‘very interested’ in the concept of a national road pricing scheme but it is unclear how charges would be calculated.
Currently motorists pay 57.95p in fuel duty per litre of petrol and diesel, a figure which has been frozen since March 2011.
This brings in £28billion a year, or 1.3 per cent of national income, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, while VAT on fuel and vehicle excise duty also raises money for the Treasury.
It has recently been reported that a proposed ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be accelerated to 2030 in efforts to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Under Tony Blair, Labour backed and then abandoned the idea of a national road pricing scheme with a petition against the plans reaching 1.8million signatures.
Edmund King, president of the AA, said that while electric vehicles were good for the environment, they were less so for the Exchequer.
He said: ‘The government can’t afford to lose £40billion from fuel duty and car tax when the electric revolution arrives.
‘It is always assumed that road pricing would be the solution but that has been raised every five years since 1964 and is still perceived by most as a “poll tax on wheels”.’
He highlighted his 2017 proposal that drivers be given an allowance of 3,000 miles per year — or more in rural areas — and any mile over that would be subject to a fee.
■ Cannabis resin a quarter stronger, study finds
THE strength of street cannabis has increased across the world over the past 50 years, according to a study.
Researchers from the University of Bath looked at data from more than 80,000 cannabis samples collected from streets in the US, UK, Netherlands, France, Denmark, Italy and New Zealand.
They found concentrations of THC — the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis — had increased by 14 per cent in herbal cannabis from 1970 to 2017.
In resin, which is extracted from herbal cannabis, THC levels rose by 24 per cent between 1975 and 2017.
However, concentrations of cannabidiol or CBD, which is not intoxicating, did not change over time.
Dr Tom Freeman, director of the Addiction and Mental Health Group at the University of Bath, said frequent use of cannabis with higher levels of THC carried an increased risk of addiction and psychotic disorders.
‘As the strength of cannabis has increased, so too has the number of people entering treatment for cannabis use problems,’ he said.
‘More Europeans are now entering drug treatment because of cannabis than heroin or cocaine.’
Dr Freeman said the rises in strength highlighted the need for wider strategies for harm reduction similar to those for alcohol, such as standard units and public guidelines on safer consumption limits.
■ Average age of giving birth at record high
THE average age of mothers who gave birth last year reached a record high of 30.7, new figures show.
For fathers in England and Wales it stayed at 33.6 years — itself a record high, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
There were 640,370 birth registrations in 2019, a year-on-year fall of 2.5 per cent.
Some 51.5 per cent of these were within a marriage or civil partnership.
The age group with the most registered births in 2019 was 30-34-year-olds, and the average age of a woman giving birth for the first time was 28.9, the same as the record high reached in 2018.
The stillbirth rate is at a record low, with 2,522 registered last year, a rate of 3.9 per 1,000 births.
David Corps, from the ONS vital statistics outputs branch, said: ‘Stillbirth rates varied by age with the youngest and oldest mothers generally seeing the highest risk of stillbirth since the beginning of the century.
‘In 2019, the percentage of pre-term live births in England and Wales decreased slightly which indicates a potential change in this trend which we will continue to monitor.
‘By the end of this year we will release provisional figures about births in 2020 where we will assess stillbirth rates, gestational age and other factors that could have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.’
■ Obama warns of ‘dangerous path’ as Trump denies election result
BARACK OBAMA has said Donald Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the US presidential election that delivered victory for Democrat Joe Biden is putting the country on a ‘dangerous path’.
Mr Trump suggests voters should not believe the numbers that demonstrate his rival’s win. He has made baseless claims of massive fraud, demanding recounts and calling for audits in an effort to discredit the outcome.
Mr Obama (above) said he was not shocked that a man who ‘never admits loss’ was refusing to acknowledge defeat.
‘I’m more troubled by the fact that other Republican officials, who clearly know better, are going along with this, are humouring him in this fashion,’ Mr Obama told CBS show 60 Minutes.
‘It is one more step in delegitimising not just the incoming Biden administration but democracy generally. And that’s a dangerous path.’
His comments came as Mr Trump worked to take back an apparent acknowledgment that Mr Biden had won the White House and was making it clear he would keep trying to overturn the election result.
Mr Trump’s earlier comments yesterday had given some critics and supporters hope that the White House was ready to begin working on a transition with Mr Biden’s team.
Mr Trump, without using Mr Biden’s name, said that ‘he won’ as part of a tweet that made baseless claims about a ‘rigged’ election.
But as the Republican president saw how his comments were being interpreted as his first public acknowledgment of a Biden victory, he quickly reversed course.
‘He only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA,’ Mr Trump subsequently tweeted. ‘I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION!’