Fuel Blockade

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:08 pm on 28th September 2000.

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Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Liberal Democrat 4:08 pm, 28th September 2000

My Lords, first does the Minister agree that oil is a scarce and diminishing resource which we must use more economically in future? The sooner the country and the world takes on board that message, the better. Most of my comments result from my experience in the police authority and county council during the fuel crisis. Perhaps I may say that the channels of communication to which the Minister referred were slow to act. If there is a future crisis, they will need to act more quickly.

Secondly, it is clear from the work of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution that speed reduction, less use of the accelerator, and not using the car for the 50 per cent of journeys which are less than two miles, will save far more than 3p a litre; and probably 6p or 7p per litre. If people really wish to economise, there is a means at their disposal which is easy to take and, according to my information, results in much slower speeds, fewer accidents and less air pollution.

Perhaps I may ask the Minister to consider whether the obstruction of the highway by heavy moving lorries is covered by the present law. I believe the law of obstruction relates to stationary vehicles, and that may need to be attended to. We know that we live in "just in time" supply days. All bus companies and most hauliers have low stocks of fuel. One of the reasons for that is the high tax rate. Can the Minister consider an arrangement whereby if people hold strategic stocks of fuel there is a method of rebating the tax?

As regards rural dwellers, does the Minister agree that spending money on home insulation would do far more than having cuts in fuel duty? Lastly, would he consider the question of extending fuel duty rebate for buses and community transport? Bus fares in rural areas are affected and services are being cut back hard because of the cost of fuel.