Rising Fuel Costs: Impact on Motorists

Transport – in the House of Commons on 17th March 2022.

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Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

What steps he is taking with Cabinet colleagues to mitigate the impact of rising fuel costs on motorists.

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

I am working with my Cabinet colleagues to consider support for motorists during these challenging times.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

I place on record my celebrations for everybody celebrating St Patrick’s day, and a happy Purim.

With fuel costs skyrocketing and the average family facing an annual increase of £386 in petrol costs, my constituents are being forced to choose between getting to work and heating their homes. Does the Secretary of State agree that now would be the worst possible time to introduce a tax hike of £255 on working people who are already seeing their pay swallowed up by the costs of simply living?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

The hon. Lady asks specifically about the additional costs of motoring during these difficult times with what we have seen happen to the crude oil price. I gently remind her that she voted against a measure in the Budget to freeze fuel duty for a 12th consecutive year.

Photo of Aaron Bell Aaron Bell Conservative, Newcastle-under-Lyme

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend Robert Halfon for the 12-year freeze in fuel duty—that is extremely welcome—but given the increases in pump prices and the costs for average constituents in Newcastle-under-Lyme, we need to do more at the forthcoming Budget. The Treasury is getting more revenue from VAT, so we need to find ways to reduce that duty burden so that people in my constituency can fill up and continue to go to work. Will the Secretary of State speak to the Chancellor about that?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the pressures that exist. As I mentioned, we froze fuel duty for the 12th consecutive year, which means that it costs about £15 less to fill up a family car than it would have done otherwise. He is right to mention my right hon. Friend Robert Halfon, who is perhaps the most expensive Member of this House, having cost the Treasury tens of billions of pounds over the years for this worthwhile saving.

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence Procurement)

Alan Davie, Ian Roberts, Geddes and Laird are the hauliers who keep the economy of Angus moving, and by the Road Haulage Association’s estimate they are facing an 18% increase in operating costs purely on fuel. What discussions will the Secretary of State have with the Chancellor to get something sorted to keep our economy moving?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

The hon. Member is right to point out the fantastic work done by haulage companies and all their workers. Over the next five years, the 2022-23 freeze will represent £8 billion off the fuel bill for motorists in this country, including the haulier sector, which I recently backed with 32 separate measures to ensure that it can continue to operate during what have been difficult times post covid.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

It is a very happy St Patrick’s day in Ireland because fuel duty has been cut in the past week. I thank my right hon. Friend for what the Government have done on the fuel duty freeze, but the fact is that motorists are paying £1.60 or more for their petrol and diesel and we are heading for a de facto lockdown where parents cannot afford to take their kids to school and workers cannot afford to commute by car and have to stay at home. Will my right hon. Friend make appeals to the Treasury to cut fuel duty in the spending round next week?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

I had not noticed that Parliament’s most expensive MP was in his place in the Chamber. My right hon. Friend’s work has been absolutely remarkable over the years: actually, after 12 years of the fuel freeze, the average family has saved something like £2,000 as a direct result of his excellent campaigning. I will of course have further conversations with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but it will be for him to decide on the next measures.

Photo of Louise Haigh Louise Haigh Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

The price of diesel is now so high that a typical van driver will be paying £800 more than they were a year ago. Meanwhile, wholesale oil prices have fallen by 28% in just one week. Those are prices millions of working people and families simply cannot afford, so why is the Transport Secretary still defending the record profits of oil and gas giants as they swallow up the pay of hard-working British people? Why does he not insist that any fall in the price of oil is passed on to the price of petrol and diesel at the pump?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

The hon. Lady is absolutely right about ensuring that any fall is passed on quickly. For example, I notice that Brent crude is down to $100 a barrel at the moment—it had been as high, I think, as $130 a week or two ago—and I want to see that passed on. But I am very curious as to why, given her deep concern about the cost of diesel, she voted against our move to freeze petrol and diesel prices this year.

Photo of Louise Haigh Louise Haigh Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

The Transport Secretary thinks he is on to a very clever point given that Labour votes against Tory Budgets, but I remind him that the last time the Tories tried to put up fuel duty, my hon. Friend Rachel Reeves, now the shadow Chancellor, forced a vote in Parliament to delay the increase. People need help in the here and now as they struggle to make decisions over which basic essentials to cut. This has to be a wake-up call for the Government. The crisis shows exactly why this country must never again be left dependent on the oil and gas of foreign despots.

My hon. Friend Bill Esterson mentioned the statistic of 1,000 electric vehicle charging units outside London—a stat that the Transport Secretary did not correct—which reveals the gross inequity of access in this country to EV charging units. The National Infrastructure Commission was also damning in its appraisal that the Government have no plan to deliver infrastructure. When will he publish the strategy on EV infrastructure that the industry is calling for, to help turbocharge the transition to cleaner transport?

Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport

I have to say again that words are one thing—I understand the hon. Lady is doing her job—but action is another. When individuals vote against measures that will freeze fuel prices for British consumers and motorists, they can hardly then stand there and say, “Why aren’t the Government doing something?” The Opposition could help: they could vote for it. On EV charging, I do not know where the stat of 1,000 chargers outside London comes from. It is completely untrue. There are nearly 30,000 chargers across the country, of which over 5,500 are rapid. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, we now have the fastest chargers in the west. I hope the hon. Lady will welcome that.