Robert Halfon is the
Member of Parliament for Harlow. Follow Rob on Twitter.
On Tuesday, I tabled a Private Members Bill on petrol prices, supported
by many other Conservative backbenchers, as well as MPs from Northern Ireland,
and Scotland. (You can see an extract in the short video above.) The idea
behind it was very simple: that fuel tax should be crystal clear to motorists.
In essence, this would sweep away the complex regulations about what fuel
garages can and cannot put on their till receipts, and replace them with one
simple rule. That whenever you fill up the family car, the till receipt should
say in black and white how much fuel duty, VAT, and petrol you have paid. It
should also say how much is actually being spent on Britain’s roads.
Simple. This would make the tax system more honest; it would be a big deterrent
against any future tax-rises; and it would add pressure on the oil companies to
At present, the amount of tax charged on fuel is invisible, disguising the fact
that fuel duty and VAT together make up more than 60% of pump prices.
FairFuelUK, independent fuel retailers, the Taxpayers Alliance, and PetrolPromise.com
are all campaigning in different ways for cheaper petrol and diesel, and for
fuel tax transparency as well. FairFuelUK have even created an example of what
an honest fuel receipt might look like. You can see it here.
To its credit, this is a Government that believes in transparency. The
Prime Minister has said:
“We want to be the most open and transparent Government in the world.”
What better to show this than printing the level of fuel duty on garage
Inevitably, there will be some Treasury Sir Humphries who are sceptical.
“Isn’t this up to the retailers?” They may ask. “Can this really be done?”
“Doesn’t this create a dangerous precedent?”
First of all, the HMRC website has a prescriptive 15-bullet point list
of what a VAT receipt can and cannot show. Transparency needs to be led by
Government. Only a Bill can give genuine clarity to retailers, and make it
standard across the whole country.
Second, the precedent has already been set. The Government is (rightly)
supporting Ben Gummer’s brilliant idea, and giving every taxpayer a statement
of what their personal taxes pay for. My point is: Why not do this for fuel
duty, as well?
A similar Sir Humphrey argument might be used about Labour’s 3p fuel
duty rise, which is planned for January 2013. The question is: Where does the
money come from?
Weighed against should be the increasing evidence that poorer drivers
are being forced off the roads by expensive fuel prices, with less money is
coming into the Treasury as a result. LSE studies show that high petrol costs
could even be adding to Britain’s dole queues. The AA has stated that 3p extra
on a litre of fuel drains £1.8 million off the High Street every single day.
This is because human behaviour is dynamic. People respond to incentives, and
the Treasury should account for this.
That is why over the coming weeks and months, I will be urging Ministers
to give a strong signal that there will be no further fuel duty rises this
Parliament. This would not only benefit jobs and growth, but it would help
significantly with the cost of living. The Prime Minister spoke up
strongly for “White
Van Conservatism” in his party conference speech. Let’s get those
White Van wheels in motion, and stop Labour’s 3p rise in fuel duty.