MP demands radical reform as fuel soars

PETROL and diesel taxes should be completely overhauled to save rural residents from being penalised, a Suffolk MP has proposed.

Ben Gummer, Conservative MP for Ipswich, made the controversial suggestion as research by the AA revealed record prices at the pumps meant a typical 50-litre tank now costs �7.46 more for petrol and �10.05 more for diesel compared with this time last year.

And the impact of higher costs will be particularly felt this weekend by people driving to Suffolk beauty spots to enjoy the Easter break.

Mr Gummer said: “I have had hauliers getting in touch with me and clearly it’s something I get regularly on the doorstep. It’s definitely hurting people.

“It is unfair because it costs the same in petrol duty whether you are driving on the M25 in rush hour or on a quiet rural road.

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“I think long term, we have got to get a system of road charging which means you can be much fairer on people who live in rural areas.

“Some rethink is inevitable because at the moment, we have got a very crude policy which discriminates against a whole group of people because it doesn’t allow you to manage demand in the same way as you would with trains or air travel.”

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Mr Gummer said the coalition Government had little control over soaring fuel costs because global factors such as inflated oil prices and the unrest in Libya played a bigger part.

But Dr Wil Gibson, chief executive of Suffolk ACRE, which champions the needs of people in rural communities, said: “A lot of the increase is to do with Government taxation – that plays a big part in the overall price of petrol.

“We have had a lot of comments from our members about the increasing cost of petrol, particularly those in rural areas who don’t have much of a choice – especially with some of the bus routes now being downgraded.

“There are a lot of people in rural areas who are on a low income and when they are paying more for food and everything else, they are just feeling squeezed from all directions. It is like they are being penalised for living in the country.”

He added: “I suspect it’s a factor for some people travelling into the area which means that fewer people are coming into the county, and fewer customers in our shops and restaurants.”

Petrol has risen 2.91p a litre since mid-March, with diesel up 3.01p, while petrol has gone up 14.92p a litre since last Easter and diesel has risen 20.09p. Meanwhile, Clacton MP Douglas Carswell put forward his own equally radical suggestion to give drivers better value for money by collecting fuel taxes locally instead of nationwide.

“Rather than just promising to cut duty, we need to fundamentally change the way we set taxation on petrol,” he said.

“If it is always being set by central Government it will always go up, therefore it should be set by county government.

“This would mean Essex County Council could collect millions of pounds in revenue every year and people could see where the money is being spent on local services.

“It would also create healthy competition in the region with an incentive to keep fuel tax down and maintain good value for money.”

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