Campaign for lower fuel prices moves up a gear

Fuel pump Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow, feels the time is right to speak out on increases in fuel duty

The campaign for lower fuel prices is gearing up again. Robert Halfon's debate at Westminster is so well attended that he can hardly get a word in edgeways.

"Families in my constituency spend more on petrol than on food," he told the crowd in Westminster Hall. "It costs more than £1.40p a litre and that hits the poor twice as hard as the rich.

"People say the price has come down but it is a bit like a burglar taking £100 out of your pocket and giving you £5 back," he added.

With a 3p duty increase due in August, Mr Halfon feels now is the time to speak out again. He quoted figures from the AA, which claims the duty rise will switch £1.8m a day out of the economy and into petrol costs.

He also reminded the government that according to another report from the RAC, motoring taxes would fall by around £10bn over the next decade as people were driven off the road.

Mr Halfon called for a windfall tax on the oil companies (as opposed to just the North Sea oil companies, which the chancellor announced last year) to fund a fuel duty cut.

"The big oil companies are not struggling. In the first quarter of this year Shell had profits of $7.6bn, BP $5.9bn and Exxon Mobil $9.4bn," he said while calling for an investigation into whether the fuel companies were deliberately keeping oil prices high.

Start Quote

Pump prices are always quick to rise but it feels like a court order is needed to get them down”

End Quote Robert Halfon MP Conservative, Harlow

Mr Halfon questioned why: "Pump prices are always quick to rise but it feels like a court order is needed to get them down."

He was applauded at the end of his speech. So many MPs wanted to speak in this short debate that he was often interrupted before he had finished his sentences.

Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth) reminded the hall the tourism industry was also heavily affected by high fuel prices. "If fewer people are able to afford to travel [to our resorts] there is a knock-on effect on our economy."

It fell to Norwich MP and Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Chloe Smith, to reply on behalf on the government. She agreed high fuel prices hurt but didn't offer anything new.

"The government has listened to motorists," she said. "Duty at the pumps has been frozen for 16 months and pump prices are now 10p lower thanks to this government's actions."

She said there was a review under way into the possible reform of Vehicle Excise Duty. When it came to the competitiveness of the oil market, she added the Office of Fair Trading was undertaking a review of pump prices in Scotland but a cut in duty this August seemed out of the question.

Many MPs accept a cut in duty is only a short-term solution to what has become a long-term problem.

"The trouble is that we take 1p off fuel one day and the next day the oil companies add it to the price, we need to come up with a new way of pricing fuel," one MP later told me.

For now Mr Halfon will keep his campaign going

A new online petition has been launched and he's planning to speak on the subject extensively over the next few months in the hope - albeit a distant hope - the government will once again change its mind.

Deborah McGurran, Political editor, East of England Article written by Deborah McGurran Deborah McGurran Political editor, East of England

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  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    i'd use the bus, but to get to work which is about 10 miles away is a 2 hour bus journey. i'd use my pushbike, but that about 3 hrs then. and cycling is not fun in the rain or snow. so it has to be a car.

    sure i'll move closer to work, but i can't afford the housing costs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    I love some of the entitlement that people believe they have to the road. "I own a car, I deserve to use it!" Its not really how it works though, no if you can't afford it, you don't deserve to use it. Driving is a privilege. not a right.

    The British seem to have a huge attachment to their cars, yet the distance we cover to get places is laughable compared to mainland Europe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Our Chancellor should wake up and not just smell the coffee but drink Espresso! He puts a duty cost on each litre sold, then there is VAT on top and that is before any Oil company's costs and retailer's small profit. Also VED changes - Politicians wanted us to change our greenhouse gas habits, this is happening. No surprise that the high revenue cars have gone - OH - surprised Treasury!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Amazing! Good old HMRC trying to stomp on the fuel retailers(not that I support them in any way I might add) in a vain attempt to get them to lower fuel prices. Is that for the benefit of us, or is it a cunning ploy so that Osborne can raise fuel duty without unduly affecting the economy? Does he really think that we are that stupid? Or is it that he just doesn't give a damn what we think?

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    A luxury!!!!! Unfortunately No 25, for the vast majority of hard working people - not just one, but two cars are an absolute necessity to be able to get to work whilst maintaining some form of decent family life. Public transport unfortunately is NOT a viable means of tranportation. It is either far too expensive, or just not available at the right time to get to work. Wake up you idiot!


Comments 5 of 36


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