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'Drivers in rural areas need fuel duty rebate'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 16, 2011

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Businesses based in remote areas such as Devon and Cornwall should get a fuel duty discount to offset eye-watering prices at the pumps, an MP has told ministers.

The call, by Westcountry MP George Eustice, came as the Government was faced mounting pressure to ditch a 3p-a-litre rise in fuel tax in the New Year.

Politicians from across the divide yesterday demanded ministers scrap the planned hike to help families and businesses struggling to fill their petrol tanks.

A backbench motion, debated yesterday and signed by more than 100 MPs, called on ministers to take firm action.

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And MPs last night unanimously passed the motion calling on the Government to consider a "price stabilisation mechanism" to tackle rising fuel costs.

As MPs heard how rural areas are hardest hit by increases, Mr Eustice, Tory MP for Camborne and Redruth, proposed a remote areas "fuel duty rebate".

He said firms "specifically located in peripheral regions like Cornwall" should get a chunk of the tax back.

"I don't think it should be beyond the wit of man," Mr Eustice said in the Commons. "It could be a very powerful regional policy." Sarah Wollaston, Tory MP for Totnes, added there is a "compelling case" for Chancellor George Osborne to stop the 3p rise. She told colleagues a car is not a "luxury but an absolute necessity" in the countryside, and warned of the damage the hike would cause Westcountry industry.

Dr Wollaston cited the extra £24,000-a-year the rise will cost Ivybridge, Devon-based recycled tyre manufacturer Bandvulc, which uses more than 500,000 litres of fuel annually.

She told MPs: "It's just one example of a family-run manufacturing business producing local jobs with a sustainable product that wants to stay in Devon but knows it would make economic sense to relocate part of their businesses to Eastern Europe as part of the fuel duty rise."

But the motion was "watered down", critics claimed, compared to an e-petition signed by 100,000 people, which triggered the debate.

Halting January's 3p rise in petrol duty was not mentioned in the motion. Critics argued this explained why the Government did not insist Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs voted with the Government and against the motion.

But Former South West Minister Ben Bradshaw called for immediate action. The Labour MP for Exeter said: "Hard pressed motorists should not have to wait until January for nothing more than a freeze in duty.

"They should get 3p off a litre now. That is what Labour's proposal to reverse January's VAT hike would deliver. Cutting VAT also has the advantage of not just helping motorists but everyone and giving our stagnant economy the boost it so desperately needs."

Anne Marie Morris, Conservative MP for Newton Abbot, said the car is "often a necessity to get from A to B" in rural areas.

Adding low-income workers, small businesses and families are struggling to fund the cost of £1.34-a litre for unleaded petrol, she said: "The Government has taken much needed action in this area, but I believe we need to go further. I would like to see planned increases in fuel taxation cancelled, the introduction of a price stabilisation mechanism and consideration given to introducing a rural rebate scheme in our more remote areas." The Government wants to trial plans for a 5p-a-litre fuel cut for remote areas on the Isles of Scilly, and many hope it will be rolled out to rural Devon and Cornwall if it proves successful.

Stephen Gilbert, Lib Dem MP for St Austell and Newquay, said: "For a rural community like Cornwall, the cost of fuel can act as a real barrier for people to get to work, access vital services and visit family and friends.

"The coalition has taken action, scrapping Labour's fuel duty escalator, cutting fuel duty and introducing a fair fuel stabiliser. But we do need to more to reduce the cost of motoring."

In an apparent olive branch, it was reported that Downing Street was considering scrapping the planned excise rise.

But Treasury minister David Gauke said the Government would have to press ahead with planned increases unless money could be found from other areas.

Mr Gauke said: "Of course we will listen to these concerns, but there isn't an easy answer to this, there isn't some great pot of money. We are going to have to take difficult decisions."

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  • Baby_boomer  |  November 17 2011, 1:54PM

    Whilst I do have some sympathy with those who live in really isolated locations or who genuinely need to purchase fuel for their business, let us not forget that research reveals that when driving in rural areas we use far less fuel per mile than in towns, which almost exactly counteracts the higher fuel purchase prices found in non-urban locations. There are of course far too many people driving when they have no essential need to, such as the elderly in urban areas. These people get free bus-passes and WILL save money simply by scrapping their car altogether and taking taxis when there's no bus in the evening or at weekends. All the costs of fuel, repairs, MOT, insurance, parking and the initial capital outlay will in almost every instance work out more than a combined taxi *** freebee-bus travel lifestyle. (All those OAPs who consider catching a bus infra-dig should shut up and pay up for the petrol.) The big hypocrites in all this are populist seeking Tory MPs. Let nobody forget that it was the last Conservative Government which imposed VAT on domestic fuel - much more of a burden to the entire population than the question of fuel duty. Posturing by Tory MPs of late is nothing more than pandering to the petrol-heads who started off the e-petition on fuel costs in the first place. Oil is a finite source and if fewer people can now afford to drive their current vehicles, is it not time that they cut their cloth accordingly and got a car with a smaller engine? This will also mean that oil resources will last longer for future generations or are we just too selfish to worry about that? Replacing an engine of, say, 2 litres with one of just 1.2 litres (normally more than ample for commuting or running about locally) will reduce ones fuel bill very substantially - overnight. Savings ARE there to be made and, all too often, all it takes is for you just to stop the keeping up with the Joneses attitude. Research also shows that it is a bit of a myth that the private motorist is in fact facing ever higher costs for travel. The real losers in all this are those reliant on public transport. Who says so? The RAC, no less, hardly some tree-hugging anti-car lobby group. They reveal, contrary to the public's perception, that the overall cost of motoring has actually reduced marginally in real terms over the last ten years whilst rail and bus fares (for those who have to pay them) have soared – yet another Tory privatisation disaster legacy.

  • Gareth2010  |  November 16 2011, 6:09PM

    Odd man, we bought a house in rural mid Devon because couldn't afford to buy in a town. Unfortunately the buses have been withdrawn and we now have two old cars instead of one. Means we'd be better off with a larger mortgage to buy a house in a own due to the £240 a month we spend getting to work, but of course getting a mortgage is much harder plus we now have negative equity. Feel sort of stuck.

  • JD  |  November 16 2011, 5:28PM

    Us self employed are really struggling with these high diesel prices

  • samoyeds  |  November 16 2011, 10:43AM

    the government are going to shaft us every which way anyway, no matter how meetings and discussions. they may put off the 3p increase, but i bet they will double it the next time.

  • Nu_Shooz  |  November 16 2011, 10:28AM

    Boring non story. Even if they ditch the 3p hike and you people claim a victory. Its still 30p a ltr TOO MUCH

  • Isolde  |  November 16 2011, 10:04AM

    It's all part of living in a rural community, you get the benefits you need to accept that it comes with some losses. If we all recieved the sort of benefits that the government gives to Air Travel then we would be a lot happier, all of us.

  • oddman  |  November 16 2011, 9:54AM

    I have no choice I have to drive to work everyday 25 miles each way 5 days a week. Its not just about rural areas its about the price of fuel as a whole. If you live in a rural area, or if you live in a town or city its a huge cost, a 3rd of some peoples wage. Sorry MP for Newton Abbot but it has to be about reducing the cost of fuel duty not singling out rural areas. If you chose to live in the countryside then you have to think of the cost driving to and from the shops, work etc. Correct me if im wrong but house prices are quite high in the rural areas and attract those with high disposable income so are theses the people that realy need help? I am no expert but do businesses pay vat on fuel?