26 April 2019

Legal Editor’s Manifesto if he got into power (don’t worry it’s not for real)

The air is awash with election fever in the UK with local elections, European Elections (yes, you read correctly) and a possible General Election; also, a possible Scottish Independence referendum in the next few years. It’s tempting to look at political party manifestos for their policies on transport, environment, energy and industry. But as my late grandfather would have said about politicians, one’s a scoundrel and the other is a rogue. I may on another occasion compare and contrast between political parties, but for the moment I will indulge myself with my manifesto wish list in the unlikely event I had control of the government. Here goes:-

  1. Organise a standing advisory committee with representatives from the auto industry; science; energy; banks and environmental groups to consider holistically how to ensure a cohesive mass scale introduction of low carbon/ no carbon vehicles. Their remit would include warts and all analysis of different fuel options eg electric, hydrogen and publish the findings.
  2. Fund scientific and research groups to develop strong lightweight materials with low environmental impact- possibly akin to the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre.
  3. Legislation to monitor the ethical sourcing of materials, for instance, if they came from a country with a poor human rights record.
  4. Set targets for size and weight reduction of vehicles allied to suitable incentives to encourage a move away from overweight and oversized vehicles. Possibly, linked to available comparative information so as to encourage the public to buy less ladened vehicles with lower drag coefficients.
  5. Increased priority on cybercrime prevention and misuse of data arising from self-driving vehicles.
  6. Review current driver training and licensing rules. This would include compulsory training on how to download and review technical updates for vehicles thus helping compliance with the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 where drivers and owners of vehicles will have a legal liability to ensure autonomous vehicles comply with manufacturers latest software modifications.
  7. Have a specific government minister to ensure sufficient mobility, including public transport services, in rural areas. Currently, the focus is very much on transport for urban areas given predictions that 70% of the world population will live in cities.
  8. Move towards more harmonised world vehicle standards and type approval. There remain marked differences between US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and the UN rules, for instance as reflected in EU regulations.
  9. Funding to promote and encourage women in motorsport.
  10. Instigate a research programme to assess the behavioural and social effect of car designs on society. Do aggressive looking vehicles promote anti-social driving and adversely affect the mood of a community?
  11. Driver training in schools and promote science, engineering and design as fun and meaningful career options.
  12. Smart motorways- I need to be convinced. Call me old fashioned, but I like the idea of encouraging smart considerate drivers to complement technological advances.

Don’t worry you can all sleep easy as I do not plan to stand for power like an eccentric Dr Strangelove. However, I do hope my suggestions wet the appetites of our diverse politicians and activist groups so they start thinking out of the box and act collaboratively. Suspicion and dogma could be the enemy of beneficial policies that drive the economy, help address the urgency on climate change and ensure affordable mobility- also still keep cars fun and relevant.

Julian Wilkins

Postscript: Postscript- The Ghosn story continues with increasing drama. Carlos Ghosn was released from court on 25th April with bail at $4.5 million. One bail condition is Ghosn cannot meet or otherwise communicate with his wife, Carole, without prior permission. Ghosn said 'Restricting communications and contact between my wife and me is cruel and unnecessary. We love each other very much'.

According to his lawyer, Takashi Takano, Ghosn was subjected to an accumulation of 72 hours, since he was last arrested, of questioning in the absence of his lawyers- a practice allowed under Japanese law. Ghosn’s supporters say these interrogations are designed to force a false confession.

Meanwhile, Renault has apparently alerted French prosecutors concerning alleged suspect payments to a Renault-Nissan business partner in Oman whilst Ghosn was CEO.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron said his government would be 'very vigilant' on the treatment of Carlos Ghosn saying '(Ghosn) is entitled to the presumption of innocence and consular protection...'

I get this feeling the story will run and run but escalate too.

Publisher: Shaun Hunter

Global News Editor: Trisha Chowdhury

Legal Affairs Editor: Julian Wilkins

Chief Executive: Peter Wooding

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