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Government hints at fuel rethink

13/11/12

THE GOVERNMENT has hinted that a planned fuel duty rise could be axed as ministers saw off a Labour call for the 3p increase in January to be abandoned.

Treasury Economic Secretary Sajid Javid said the Government understood the pressures facing households and was "determined" to help with the cost of living.

Conservative backbencher Robert Halfon, a prominent campaigner on fuel duty, resisted the chance to back Labour's call for a freeze because he believed ministers were in "listening mode" on the issue ahead of Chancellor George Osborne's autumn statement next month.

"I believe it is perfectly sensible and right to wait for the autumn statement, given the Government's record, given that they cut fuel duty last year and given that they have stopped two fuel duty rises," Mr Halfon told the Commons.

In a reference to the home of Second World War codebreakers, the Harlow MP added: "You don't have to work at Bletchley Park to read the signals that the Treasury is sending out about giving help with the cost of living."

Labour's call to delay the tax hike until at least next April was defeated by 282 votes to 234, a Government majority of 48.

Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman said the Government has always tried to "listen to the concerns of motorists" on the affordability of any duty hikes.

The spokesman told a regular Westminster media briefing: "There are a series of planned rises in fuel taxes programmed in and those will generate revenue which will help bring the deficit down.

"But what the Government has sought to do thus far is listen to the concerns of motorists and, where it can, delay or cancel those planned rises."

Edmund King, president of the AA, said: "Families that rely on cars to earn the daily bread, get the kids to school and the house stocked up live in fear of pump price rises tipping precarious budgets over the edge.

"For that reason alone, the need to put January's fuel duty rise on hold is blindingly obvious.

"The defeated motion ramps up uncertainty among families trying to afford a decent Christmas but facing the threat of nearly £2 a tank more for petrol and diesel in the new year."

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