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[Un-allotted Half Day] — Fuel Costs

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:33 pm on 7th February 2011.

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Photo of Angus MacNeil Angus MacNeil Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitutional Reform), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland) 6:33 pm, 7th February 2011

I certainly do have the decency to recognise that. I am very pleased that that announcement was made in the autumn. In fact, I think I text messaged the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to say how delighted I was. My only fear is that Liberal Members have lost the fierce urgency that they used to have in opposition, and are not really looking for a date on which we will see a rural fuel derogation. By Christmas we had heard that nothing formal had happened-that was one of the lines that came out. We want things to happen, and we genuinely need them to happen. The coalition agreement mentioned the rural fuel derogation. It did not mention the VAT rise, but hey, that was put in place quite quickly-by new year-yet we have not seen the rural fuel derogation.

The European Commission has been blamed, so I wrote to the Commission asking for the timetable, to see whether things are indeed being held back. However, the European Commission being the European Commission, it probably does not feel very accountable to democratically elected citizens in the member states of the EU. That is a matter for the European Commission. I hope that it is listening and will respond quickly, because we need action now. I need to know from the Government whether the formal stage has started. Just when will we see a rural fuel derogation? How long has it taken to get a rural fuel derogation in other countries? Those are the questions that I am being asked when I go back to the Hebrides, and I need answers from the Treasury now.

The rural fuel derogation is not at all like Christmas, because Christmas has come and gone, but where is the rural fuel derogation? I acknowledge that progress has been made, and I am pleased to see that. There are good intentions behind it, but thus far, it has been as effective only as the progress made by Labour. I hope that, in a year's time, the situation will be very different. I hope that we will not have to debate the issue again in a year's time, but I fear that we will. The Labour Government were famous for the ridiculous, obstinate answers that they gave us over the years-they were against giving any help at all to the islands-and my worry is that the Liberals have really lost the urgency of now. They should remember that there are elections in May, and that if there has been no action by then, the voting will hurt them.