Robert Halfon is MP for Harlow, a former Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Chair of the Education Select Committee and President of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.
For over eleven years, the Conservative Government has both cut and frozen fuel duty, saving motorists an extra £15, in tax terms, every time they fill up at the pumps.
This fuel duty freeze followed the inexorable rise of Gordon Brown’s fuel duty escalator and the petrol blockade in 2000 (because of high petrol and diesel costs) during Tony Blair’s premiership.
From George Osborne, to Phillip Hammond and Rishi Sunak, all Conservative Chancellors have understood the damage that too high fuel duty does to the economy and public services – not just to motorists, but small and big business, as well as vital public services like the NHS and Policing.
All of us (rightly) worry much about the ever-increasing energy bills, and welcome the Chancellor’s nine billion pound rebates (in terms of council tax rebates and energy subsidies, including expanding the warm homes discount). But the other jumbo elephant in the room are the huge rises in petrol and diesel prices, in part exacerbated by the tragic Russian invasion in Ukraine.
As I write this article, a picture was sent to me showing unleaded petrol at £1.57 and diesel at £1.69. The journalist who took the picture (Giles Sheldrick from the Daily Express), wrote “just out of shot is Dick Turpin”. A sentiment widely felt. But, whilst it may be highway robbery at this petrol station, across the country prices are over £1.50, and will likely reach £1.60 before too long.
That is unaffordable for motorists, especially those who depend on their cars. The average family is paying £16 more, every time they fill up, than a year ago (£20 pound extra in rural areas). Hauliers are forking out £120 more since February 2021 and white-van men and women £25 more. The impact on the cost of distribution and transportation logistics is crippling.
It affects bus prices too, because of the cost of fuel. These costs feed into inflation, as food prices and other essentials go up, because of the rise at the pumps.
Alongside the work the Government is doing on domestic energy bills, they need to look at assisting motorists as well. Primarily, this should be done by lowering fuel duty or VAT.
But ministers should also establish a Pumpwatch Monitor, as proposed by Fair Fuel UK. This would protect motorists from the rapaciousness of big oil companies that jack up the price ‘rocket style’ when the oil price goes up internationally – and take a ‘feather approach’ when the global oil price falls. According to the RAC Foundation and Fair Fuel UK’s national panel, average profit margins for diesel have increased by 150 per cent in the last two years, with petrol margins at the pumps more than doubling.
There are watchdog bodies to protect the consumer from unfair practices – from OFGEM, to OFCOM. So why not PUMPWATCH?
The awful ‘Nazi’ slander by Putin on Ukraine
Given that Putin, incredibly – has described the Ukrainian leadership as ‘neo-Nazis’ – despite President Zelensky being Jewish himself – it was beyond comprehension that the Russian leadership would take aim at the Babyn Yar holocaust memorial, perhaps the most important such memorial in Ukraine. It is almost impossible to believe that the Russian armed forces did not know about Babyn Yar.
Putin calling the Ukrainian Neo-Nazis and attacking Babyn Yar was a slippery and dark road back in time: like the Nazis establishing Auschswitz, yet having Arbeit Macht Frei (work makes you free) at the entrance as victims marched through the gates.
During the Holocaust, over one million Ukrainian Jews were massacred by Hitler. As the Babyn Yar memorial reminds us: from 1940 to 1943, up to 100,000 Jews were massacred at Babyn Yar alone, including the entire Jewish population of Kyiv. In the Second World War, four million Ukrainians lost their lives to the Nazi invasion.
So Ukrainians know all too well what it is like to suffer from Nazism: Putin’s language is all about dehumanising the Ukrainians and giving a false justification for their invasion.
I am an MP of the Jewish faith and like many Jews, was brought up learning about the history and tragedy of the Holocaust. Jews know what true Nazism really means and who the real Nazis were. They are certainly not Ukrainians in 2022.