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[Un-allotted Half Day] — Fuel Costs

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 7:04 pm on 7th February 2011.

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Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Shadow PC Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Wales) 7:04 pm, 7th February 2011

The hon. Gentleman makes a strong point. I am sure that the Assembly Member for his area, who is a member of my party, agrees with his comments.

My hon. Friend Mr MacNeil discussed how fuel prices in his constituency have reached the £1.50 a litre mark. Having visited his beautiful constituency last week as a member of the Welsh Affairs Committee, I can inform my hon. Friend that his effort on that issue is appreciated.

George Freeman highlighted how the rising fuel price hinders economic growth, especially outside south-east England and in those sectors of the economy that the UK Government are depending on, if they are serious about their stated aim of rebalancing the economy.

My hon. Friend Mr Weir highlighted the huge problems caused to small businesses in his constituency. He pointed out the impact on disposable income for working families in his valid contribution.

John Thurso made an informative speech. He made a powerful argument about changing the VAT rate for fuel, and I hope that Ministers will consider his ideas.

In their joint economic declaration last week, the devolved Administrations specifically called on the UK Government to take action to counteract rising fuel and transport costs. The Governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all highlighted how rising fuel costs form a significant economic headwind that undermines efforts to rebuild after the recent downturn. The declaration called for the postponement of the proposed duty increase planned for April this year. I am sure that all the Celtic Governments support the need for a fuel duty stabiliser.

In closing, I want to refer to those bodies that have contacted us to support our motion. We have received overwhelming support from many diverse organisations, such as the Farmers Union of Wales, NFU Cymru, the Freight Transport Association, the Road Haulage Association, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Countryside Association. That diversity reflects our point that ordinary families, businesses and workers across the UK acutely feel the effects of volatile fuel prices, although rising fuel duty will inevitably hit rural communities hardest.

Gareth Vaughan, president of the FUW, has written to say how "grossly unfair" it is that we in the UK pay more than any other country for our fuel, because of the "extortionate level of tax" imposed by the UK Government. He added that

"bearing in mind that there is a difference of as much as five pence per litre between rural and city garages in Wales already, the added fuel duty coupled with rising oil prices will be devastating to rural communities all over the UK."

Jack Semple, director of policy at the Road Haulage Association, has stated:

"The Road Haulage Association welcomes Plaid's and the SNP's support for a fuel duty stabiliser" since

"the volatility of fuel prices is a major issue for hauliers and, increasingly, for their customers."

John Walker, the FSB's national chairman, has also endorsed our approach, reminding us that

"Every extra penny spent at the pumps is a penny not being spent elsewhere in the economy...Small businesses want to grow...and create employment but the cost of fuel puts the brakes on their ability to drive the recovery."

Finally, the FTA has stated:

"Lives and livelihoods up and down the country are suffering in the face of unsustainable and crippling fuel costs. This cost is unsustainable and...as part of the Fair Fuel UK Campaign, the Freight Transport Association and the Road Haulage Association, along with backing from the RAC, are asking government principally to scrap the fuel duty rise planned in April and introduce a methodology for stabilising fuel prices."

It is not only organisations and individuals outside this place who have backed our campaign. In introducing his plans for a fuel stabiliser in 2008, the then shadow Chancellor-the current Chancellor-described the stabiliser as

"a common sense plan to help families, bring stability to the public finances and help the environment by making the price of carbon less volatile".

In the light of those comments, people across the UK will ask why his Government oppose our motion today.