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[Un-allotted Half Day] — Fuel Costs

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 5:57 pm on 7th February 2011.

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Photo of David Morris David Morris Conservative, Morecambe and Lunesdale 5:57 pm, 7th February 2011

I will keep it short, Mr Deputy Speaker.

We all know why we are having this debate today-the extortionate increases in fuel duty brought in mainly by the last Government, which were made worse by three increases introduced in the last Labour Budget that the new Government have to implement or find revenue from elsewhere.

My argument has always been that our top priority must be to cut the deficit, which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor is doing. We have a national and moral duty to do so. After that, we need to start considering ways to cut the burden of tax and get our country moving again-excuse the pun. When that process begins, fuel duty should be our top priority.

On Friday I was called by a haulier in my constituency, Mick Gorry, who claims that despite turning over £4.5 million from his 41 trucks in Morecambe, he made just £19,000 profit in the last financial year. To unpick that, we need to understand that of that £4.5 million turnover, £2.2 million was spent on fuel. As prices rise, it is easy to see how that small profit could disappear.

This is an Opposition day debate, but let us not delude ourselves: this problem was created by the last Labour Government, and we must work out how to clear it up. Mr Gorry is convinced that the solution to the essential user rebate is a fuel stabiliser. He makes the point, rightly in my view, that haulage costs are pushed up by prices in the shops, which in turn causes the risk of inflation, which we must avoid in an economic downturn. But let us not be unrealistic. As I said at the outset, our top priority is to cut the deficit. Thirteen years were spent telling everyone that we could pay for everything-we must never fall into that trap again. As a coalition supporter, I can look my constituents in the eye and tell them honestly that we do not have a bottomless pit of money, but that we can and will cut tax when the public finances are in a better position.

It benefits no one to have a bankrupt United Kingdom-everyone agrees about that. If we had continued down the old path, we would be in that position. My constituency looks to the House and the Government to show leadership on the matter. We showed ourselves at our best by being honest about the challenges and trying to find solutions. Without the reckless spending of the past, Mr Gorry would not be spending £2.2 million a year on fuel every year.

I support our Chancellor wholeheartedly. I support a proposed fuel stabiliser and any forthcoming rebates. I have yet to hear any detail from the Opposition about how they would try to get us out of the mess into which they got us.