Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland MPs welcome George Osborne petrol decision

Person filling up car
Image caption Motorists' organisations say fuel duty levels are already too high

A decision by the government to postpone its 3p-a-litre rise in fuel duty has been given a cautious welcome by Northern Ireland MPs.

The chancellor has scrapped plans to increase the duty on fuel by three pence a litre from August.

George Osborne said the decision to postpone the rise until January would help the economic recovery.

Mr Osborne also said the move would also assist working families and businesses.

He told the House of Commons that the government was "doing everything we can".

"The one-off cost of this change will be fully paid for by the larger-than-forecast savings in departmental budgets," he added.

In last year's autumn statement, the chancellor cancelled a scheduled 3p rise in fuel duty for January this year but said another planned rise this August would proceed - although it would be cut from 5p to 3p.

A Downing Street spokesman said the issue had been "under consideration" for some time.

The decision to postpone the rise follows a high profile campaign by road users' groups and politicians who argued the increase would damage the economy.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds welcomed the government's announcement. The North Belfast MP argued that the government should go further and actually cut the price of fuel for motorists.

"A move to reduce the price of fuel would not only be a reprieve for household budgets, but would help to stimulate our economy at a time when it needs it most," he said.

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said the move would "provide comfort to drivers".

'Backbench pressure'

She wanted to know why "the government is doing this at this time".

The SDLP MP suggested that the coalition government had reacted to backbench pressure and feared a rebellion in their own ranks.

She said the duty rise should not have been contemplated in the first place and hoped that the postponement would be permanent.

Similar sentiments were shared by the Alliance MP Naomi Long MP.

She said: "Having signed up to the campaign to scrap this rise in fuel duty, I welcome this decision. However, it has merely been delayed and not scrapped completely which I am concerned about."

The East Belfast MP also said: "This is just the latest in a number of u-turns from a government whose unpopularity is increasing."

The government's change of heart was a theme picked up by the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls.

He called for the rise to be postponed this morning and described it as the fastest u-turn in history.

His party colleague Vernon Coaker, the shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland, said the move would "help Northern Ireland's hard pressed motorists and hauliers".

He added: "Yesterday, I called on the government to change their mind and today I am glad they have followed Labour's lead."

The postponement was welcomed by motoring organisations.

The RAC said it was good news and would ease the financial burden on motorists.

Quentin Wilson a spokesman for FairFuelUK, said those involved in business and motorists would breath a sigh of relief.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites