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
    +7

    Comment number 3.

    All that happens when the government increase tax on fuel is they lose it elsewhere. People become less mobile, the economy suffers, virtually every business sector is damaged and businesses fail. The whole situation is a joke and this government really do not have a clue what damage it is having. If they did, they would take action.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 2.

    I should add that I have ditched cars for the two wheeled variant of transport, a 3.5l car to a 1.8l car to 1.0l bike, what next a 50cc moped?, the government are on a loser the higher the price of fuel the less I buy, the less I travel the less I spend around the country, tax something else like UK companies that offshore, or imported goods, we need UK industry and jobs not more tax on commuting.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 5.

    At the current rate that motoring prices are increasing, it won't be long until only the rich and those who can claim back their mileage costs will be on the road. When it's getting to £100 to fill up a standard family car, something is very, very wrong.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 9.

    If public transport was clean punctual reliable and cheap people would use it but it aint. So we have to use our cars and I do resent the high price of fuel. Facor in the terrible state of the roads and it fells like I am being mugged every time I top up.
    Reducing fuel costs benefits everyone and would be a great way of stimulating the economy so why dont they try it and see what happens.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 12.

    I would like to say that not all people have the choice to walk or cycle to work- I'm disabled & there is no public transport in my area so I rely on my car for work & daily chores. This cut again will affect the people who are getting hit the hardest by these cuts- the vulnerable & the ones on the brink of poverty. My car running costs take up 50% of my salary so I can barely afford to live now.

 

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