Rebel Liberal Democrat and Conservative backbenchers have joined the call for the next rise in fuel duty to be scrapped, which has put more pressure on the coalition government. The SNP has lodged an amendment to the Budget at Westminster, and this has attracted support from Respect’s George Galloway, Welsh nationalists, and Norther Ireland parties. The move is also being backed by campaign group FairFuelUK.
Chancellor George Osborne has previously said that fuel duty won’t rise faster than inflation, unless the price of oil falls below £45 per barrel. This would be far below the current market price of crude oil – £79 per barrel. In the March Budget, he announced that they would go ahead with the planned increase in fuel duty this August, which will raise the tax another 3p per litre. This has come under fire by many organisation, with the AA insisting it will force motorists from the road.
Now MPs have joined the call, and the support is coming from nine political parties – one of which is independent – totalling at least 35 signing up for the campaign within hours of the amendment being revealed. Some of these include Tory MPs Andrew Percy and Gordon Henderson, Lib Dem Mike Hancock and three from Labour.
SNP Treasury spokesman Stewart Hosie says the level of cross-party support for the clause is amazing and reflects the mood throughout the country that the price of fuel must come under control. The lack of action is one of the biggest problems missing in Osborne’s Budget. High fuel costs aren’t only hurting hard-pressed homeowners across Britain, as they are holding back economic recovery and harming businesses as well. They have the highest petrol and diesel tax rates in Europe, and it’s time to end the highway robbery and stop further increases, which will hurt economic recovery, he added.
FairFuelUK national spokesman Quentin Willson says now is the time to show that parliament can join together to stand up for the greater good. The price of fuel is one of their most pressing social problems. They call on all MPs to show the nation’s hard-working citizens and businesses that they understand and care about this issue, he added. The group says the need for measures to stimulate economic growth is even more urgent with the economy falling into recession. Adding 3p per litre onto fuel borders on madness at a time when the economy is weak, businesses are struggling and families are fighting to survive week by week, it added.
A spokeswoman for the Treasury said the government has taken action to help citizens with the cost of motoring by delivering support worth over £4 billion. They froze fuel duty in the autumn statement until August and axed another planned increase altogether. This followed a decision to reduce fuel duty in Budget 2011, as well as to remove the fuel duty escalator and replace it with a fair fuel stabiliser.
The Treasury spokeswoman added that petrol and diesel will be 10p per litre cheaper on average compared to if they had gone ahead with the escalator announced in 2009. However, they have always been clear that decisions about public finances have to support the government’s priority to reduce the deficit in a sustainable way.
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