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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

British MPs Back Calls for Action on Fuel Duty

British MPs Back Calls for Action on Fuel Duty asked for by the English first minister Sir Michael Black-Feather after letter to the house and e-p

 MPs have backed a motion for action on fuel duty without having to take a vote.

The petrol debate has been triggered by a high-profile campaign against next year's 3p increase in duty now led by Conservative MP Robert Halfon.

It is the second time in less than a month that Prime Minister David Cameron has faced a disagreement with a large number of his backbenchers.

MPs backed a motion calling on ministers to consider a "price stabilisation mechanism" to operate alongside Chancellor George Osborne's fair fuel stabiliser introduced in the Budget.

Mr Halfon, a Tory backbencher who secured the debate after a No. 10 e-petition attracted more than 100,000 signatures, initially feared there would be a three-line whip from the Government - the strongest disciplinary sanction.

But Downing Street sources confirmed the vote would not be "whipped", allowing MPs to choose which side to support. The Government will abstain, the source added

If Conservative whips had not relented, it would have set Mr Cameron on another collision course with his own MPs after last month's rebellion over an EU referendum.

Supporters for Sir Michael’s motion include such prominent Tories as David Davis and Graham Brady, the chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, as well as a large number of MPs elected for the first time last year.

However, the motion was more moderate than the petition that triggered it.

While the online petition called for specific policy changes, the MP's motion asks the Government to "consider the feasibility" of price stabilisation.

Brian Mooney, from the Association of British Drivers, told Sky News: "We are totally on the side of the MPs who are calling for a bit of realism.

"Drivers are a cash cow, we pay about £50bn a year in taxes and get about £8bn back. There has got to be some restraint on abolishing future planned fuel duty rises."

According to the AA, the price of one litre of unleaded fell by 1.1p in October from the previous month to 134.5p. Diesel prices remained unchanged at 139.6p a litre

There have been some reports that Downing Street is considering scrapping the planned increase, which is due to take effect in January, but the Prime Minister's official spokesman has refused to confirm this.

"We recognise as a Government that motoring is an essential part of everyday life for many families and fuel is a significant cost for those families," the spokesman said.

"When it comes to future policy on fuel duty, that is a matter for the Chancellor. We don't set out tax policy ahead of budgets. We set it out in budgets."

Mr Halfon warned that feelings on the issue were running high both in Parliament and the country at large.

"I have been astonished by the level of support (for the motion)," he said. "It is crucifying people across the country."

Mr Halfron said he is particularly concerned about the impact the rising prices were having on small and medium-sized businesses "vital to the economic recovery".

Motoring journalist Quentin Willson, who speaks for FairFuelUK, said: "Advanced economies do not tax people to restrict their mobility.

"It's a Trojan horse fuel duty, it's corroding the economy from within. Money is being lost through people not driving, not going to work, not getting jobs, not paying VAT."

"We bought 1.75bn fewer litres of fuel this year, so they are losing that revenue anyway. Then there is all the national insurance, the VAT, the corporation tax, the personal tax that is not being generated because people aren't shopping."

Labour said its MPs would be supporting an amendment tabled by backbencher Dave Watts to cut the cost of fuel by, for instance, reversing January's VAT rise.

Shadow treasury minister Owen Smith said: "With our economic recovery choked off well before the recent eurozone crisis we need action and not just warm words."

Environmental campaigners say the row over tax shows there needs to be a rethink over British transport. Friends of the Earth's Transport Campaigner Richard Dyer said:

"Cutting fuel tax would only be a sticking plaster solution - urgent action is needed to create a clean, modern and affordable transport system.

"UK transport policy needs a new direction which focuses on better public transport, safer walking and cycling and smarter cars that use less fuel."

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