[Un-allotted Half Day] — Fuel Costs
George Freeman (Mid Norfolk, Conservative)
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point.
On the wider economy, fuel inflation in rural areas not only affects rural communities but hinders our national economic growth. This goes to the heart of two of the coalition's laudable objectives: the rebalancing of the economy and promotion of economic growth outside the City of London and our main metropolitan centres; and the attempts to help those sectors of the economy that do more than operate in the service, retail and housing industries-namely, the sectors that make things, transport things and sell things. Those sectors are hit particularly hard and we need to do all that we can to help them.
The reality that those on the Opposition Benches-particularly the Labour Benches-do not want to face is the fact that we have inherited a chronic legacy in our public finances that is costing £120 million a day in interest, which represents £20,000 of debt for every man, woman and child in the country. If we had not tackled the debt crisis, the interest payments would have been heading towards £70 billion a year. I repeat these figures because they need repeating to those on the Labour Benches. It ill behoves a serious party of government to come to the House, as those on the Labour Front Bench did today, and show no recognition of its part in causing this fiscal crisis. Labour Members have made no serious analysis of the rural economy and rural communities- [Interruption.] I wish that they would listen to what I am saying, rather than talking over it. They had no positive suggestions for how we might tackle the problem.
Fuel inflation risks strangling the economic recovery in our most marginal rural communities, but we cannot afford to do what we would like to do to address that. I therefore urge the Government, in accepting the constraints under which they are operating, to look carefully at the options.