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[Un-allotted Half Day] — Fuel Costs

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:07 pm on 7th February 2011.

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Photo of Alan Reid Alan Reid Liberal Democrat, Argyll and Bute 6:07 pm, 7th February 2011

I hope that the scheme will be implemented as soon as possible, and that it can be extended to remote parts of the mainland once the pilot schemes are proven to be successful, as I am sure they will be.

Any argument that fuel duty must increase yet further in order to deter car use is complete nonsense. The high price of fuel already deters car use, and simply increasing the duty further will have no effect on the environment. As other hon. Members have said, increasing the duty will simply harm the rural economy.

I recognise that fuel duty brings in a lot of money for the Treasury, and that the Budget must be balanced. We face an enormous budget deficit, which was inherited from the previous Government, but I put it to the Chancellor that yet another fuel duty increase in the coming Budget will harm the economy, particularly in rural areas, and urge him to find another way of raising that money. Fuel duty discriminates against rural areas in a way that no other tax does. Almost any other tax increase to replace an increase in fuel duty would therefore be an improvement.

We have debated the stabiliser previously, particularly during proceedings on the Finance Act 2009, when Stewart Hosie proposed one. The crucial decision is on the amount around which the price should be stabilised. The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend Mr Browne, who was a Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman at the time, pointed out that the proposal from the hon. Member for Dundee East would mean that the fuel duty would have been 4.5p higher if it had been introduced in the 2008 Budget. I am disappointed that in the intervening two years, the hon. Gentleman has not come forward with a detailed, workable proposal.