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Robert Halfon MP: Let’s give White Van Conservatism wheels – scrap the 3p fuel tax rise!

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 be fair.

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 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 receipts?

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.


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