There has been a tremendous turnout today for the debate on fuel prices, with Rob Halfon leading, supported by Fair Fuel UK.
I am delighted so many members are today pressing for lower taxes on behalf of constituents. Fuel taxes are a scandalous cash cow for the Treasury and it is time the motorist received a fair deal. As I replied to the many constituents who first wrote to me about the campaign, a substantial, sustainable cut to fuel duty requires the elimination of the deficit plus cuts to public spending. That is a tough task, but it is right that the Treasury should stop further rises in duty and consider reductions, which might actually result in greater revenues.
Beyond that, the Government needs to explain to people that the Country’s commitment to decarbonising the economy and transport, begun by the last government, would mean profound changes to the way we travel. Just this morning in a Transport Committee seminar, we heard from three groups of witnesses who described various, sometimes crazy, uses of taxpayers’ money to encourage a move to low-carbon transport. For example, a network of recharging points is thought necessary to give people confidence to buy electric cars, even as proponents believe that network would scarcely be used. This policy agenda is risky and expensive for taxpayers. One of my colleagues described the conversation about behaviour change as “totalitarian” and of course he is right that there is today no apparent limit to the scope of government action for our own good.
Finally, I am concerned that the level and volatility of the price of oil may have as much or more to do with the Federal Reserve and Dollar debasement as to do with supply and demand. The following chart shows how the price of oil was low and stable in Dollars and gold until Bretton Woods broke down, after which it remained low and relatively stable in gold but high and volatile in Dollars.
There’s not much the British Government can do about the Fed, but we ought at least to understand the problem before trying to deal with it. Unfortunately, it does look like oil and fuel prices are way too dependent on the actions of a few wise men in the central banks.
It’s wonderful that another petition has been so well supported in debate and I look forward to hearing the Government’s response shortly.