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[Un-allotted Half Day] — Fuel Costs

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:47 pm on 7th February 2011.

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Photo of Michael Weir Michael Weir Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change) 6:47 pm, 7th February 2011

There has been a change since the general election. We spent the last Parliament trying to persuade the Labour Government to do something about this problem, and they steadfastly refused to do so. Now, we hear warm words from the new Government, but unfortunately we have yet to see any real action. That is the problem. Those on both Front Benches talked about the practicalities of this or that measure, and how they would have to look into them further, and I could hear the sound of things being thrown furiously at television screens up and down the country by people who are suffering now because of high fuel prices. It will be no good if it takes a year for any action to be taken, because, in that time, many of the businesses that are suffering now will no longer be in operation. That is important to the local economies of the areas concerned.

The Minister and others have talked about the need to pay down the deficit and to encourage growth. That is all true, but the growth in rural areas comes through small and medium-sized enterprises-the very businesses that are suffering most, as a result not only of fuel duty but of higher VAT and all the other factors affecting the economy. High fuel costs are strangling small businesses which have to transport goods into and out of their businesses by road, as there is no alternative. People have talked about transporting goods by rail, but in many areas such as my own, there is no realistic prospect of that happening. I have a rail line in my constituency; it goes up the whole of the east coast. Unfortunately, however, there are no freight depots on it. It is therefore impossible to use it for those purposes, and those businesses have to use the roads.