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[Un-allotted Half Day] — Fuel Costs

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:23 pm on 7th February 2011.

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Photo of Stephen Phillips Stephen Phillips Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 6:23 pm, 7th February 2011

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will take into account the views from Derbyshire. I do not want to take up too much time dealing with that, however, because there are a number of other people who want to contribute to the debate.

What I want to hear from the Government Front Bench is that the pilot will be rolled out not just in island communities in Scotland or elsewhere, but in England. There are areas, such as the constituency that I represent, where it costs people an enormous amount just to live their ordinary lives, which is effectively a piece of discrimination via the tax system. We deserve the piloting of such a break, in just the same way as those areas of the United Kingdom where the pilot will take place deserve it.

This is not the subject of today's debate, but a lot of my postbag is taken up with correspondence from constituents expressing concern about the Barnett formula and the way it effectively sends a subsidy-they would say at their expense-to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. That is one of the issues that this Government will have to grapple with, at the same time as explaining to my constituents why the derogation will mean that there may be lower prices in other parts of the United Kingdom.

I have not yet dealt with the other limb to what is proposed-it is something that I understand the Government are looking at, and they must consider it carefully-namely, the fuel duty stabiliser. The fuel duty stabiliser, which we talked about in the election, is designed to smooth out, as Dr Whiteford said, the spikes in prices that harm our constituents so much. To those who have read it, it is clear that the Office for Budget Responsibility report indicated that, although difficult, introducing the fuel duty stabiliser would not make that much difference to the revenue going to the Exchequer.

I did not understand the position of the hon. Member for Bristol East on that issue, as on so many other things. I am sure that in due course there will be some intolerant tweets about what I am saying about her across the Chamber, as that is her general way of dealing with me. I did not understand her or her party's position on the fuel duty stabiliser, because she was unable properly to tell the House what it was, and I certainly did not understand her party's position on the derogation from Europe. If the Opposition are to oppose in a responsible way, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, it would help if the Government and Members in all parts of the House know what the Opposition's position is, because at the moment, on this issue as on so many others, we do not.

Let me say a word about the question before the House. The difficulty with the motion, as the Government's proposed amendment recognises, is that it does not take into account the concerns of constituencies other than those in the devolved Administrations. The motion is focused, no doubt for perfectly good political and tactical reasons, on those constituencies, not ours. It is for that reason, among many others, that I will not be supporting it, although I will of course support the amendment that my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary moved.