By Matthew Barrett
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Robert Halfon held a debate on the oil industry in the House today, focusing on the harmful consequences of high petrol prices for many Britons, and especially those in rural areas. Mr Halfon summarised his argument for ConHome this morning, so there's not much need to re-state the case for an investigation into the oil market, but it is worth noting the response of the newly appointed Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, John Hayes. Mr Hayes agreed to look into the complaints raised by Mr Halfon and the Petrol Promise campaign.
"When the review into LIBOR is looked at, it will of course include this market [the oil market], and will aim to publish conclusions by the end of September… as a result of this debate, and the arguments from my Hon. Friend [Robert Halfon], I will also write to the FSA about concerns raised today… It is absolutely right that we enhance transparency in the oil and commodity markets… It is clear from the data that there is a considerable time-lag involved [between oil prices and petrol prices]. My Department's analysis shows that falls in the oil prices are passed on, but nevertheless, I am going to ask my officials to look at this matter again, to revisit their analysis, as a direct result of this debate and my Hon. Friend's [Robert Halfon's] contribution today… The Government would be happy to take action again if the evidence legitimises it. As a result of the arguments that Robert Halfon has put today, I will instruct my officials to do a detailed study, with analysis of how far people have to travel to reach their nearest petrol station and how this can change over time. He can count that as a significant victory."
One could certainly read into this that the post-reshuffle Government – and John Hayes – are going to stand up for motorists and petrol consumers a little more. Mr Halfon commented:
“The Government has frozen fuel duty for two years – and I want them to cut tax even further. But we have to look at the oil market as well. There have been serious accusations of oil fraud and market-manipulation. After the MPs' debate today, I welcome the new pressure the Government will bring to bear on the oil companies. John Hayes has stepped up to the plate. He is determined to find out the truth about the huge delay that it takes for oil companies to pass on cheaper oil to families across the UK.”