A week ago I had the pleasure of chairing a Westminster Hall debate, on the issue of petrol and diesel pricing, which had been secured by the MP for Harlow, Robert Halfon. I wasn’t surprised to see the room fill with members from all sides of the House, even though it did present a challenge in a half hour debate. My office postbag had been bristling with constituents’ anger all week and I imagine ever other MP was experiencing the same level of feedback and voters have a right to be angry.
The fact is this: the cost of petrol is slowly creeping beyond the means of many working families creating a catch 22 situation. People use their cars to earn an income, either wholly or in rural areas like mine, for transportation to and from work. But when the cost of running a car makes the benefit of work negligible, what’s the point?
It is true that thanks to the action of the Chancellor, shortly after we came to power the cost of petrol is cheaper now than it would have been under Labour. However, the scheduled 3p rise in fuel duty is simply not acceptable. It is a tax upon a tax as duty is added on to the cost of petrol and then VAT is charged on top of the duty. This is madness, and it a madness my constituents, who are already heavily taxed, are paying for.
When the price of crude oil goes up, the oil companies increase their price immediately, when the cost comes down no such immediate adjustment takes place. When we are living through the tough economic times we are today, people are aware of this and it adds to the general unhappiness people feel when they are being taxed to the hilt and it seems as though the state is sucking every last penny out of the family purse.
People who live in rural communities already have a tough time. They pay more at the pump than those who live in more urban areas and often have further to travel for schools and employment.
I am a believer in small state and big people. I believe in freeing people from the constraints of taxation and stimulating the economy by doing so. If George Osborne is a Conservative Chancellor, he should believe in this too.
Most people need a chair and a cup of tea after they have filled up their tank to get over the shock. Many families are now on the cusp of deciding whether or not they can keep the family car. I have constituents who are selling up the house they waited years to buy because the cost of transport and petrol has forced them back to the city.
The Chancellor needs to truly understand the pain the 3p increase will cause to so many families and realise how little sense in makes in terms of increasing revenue. Families don’t have the extra 3p per litre without giving up something else.You can’t compare petrol with a can of beans. If the cost of food escalates a family will change form Heinz to Tesco value, as indeed many are. With petrol, there is no substitute, no lesser quality brand, it’s affordable, or not.
If he continues to charge the extra 3p, the Chancellor is robbing Peter to pay Paul. People will have to give up on other essentials or leisure. The money spent on petrol will not be spent in the high street. Ordinary families are not bottomless pits. They live from month to month on a carefully worked out budget, twenty pound loaded onto one budget has to be found and taken off another.
The price increase also affects business and the cost of transportation of food. Business doesn’t absorb the cost; it is passed onto the consumer which makes that a double whammy for the family. Haulage companies especially feel the pain as they compete with our EU neighbours, who pay much less at the pump than we do.
Putting 3p onto the cost of the price of petrol is a lose-lose situation all round. Let’s hope the Chancellor sees sense before August because if he doesn’t, the 3p will become another huge issue of resentment and along with so many other policies which directly hit strivers straight in the purse, will cost us another few points in the polls.