Middle East tensions blamed for pushing petrol above 140p a litre

PETROL prices have reached a record high after breaking through the 140p-a-litre barrier for the first time.

The AA said average prices at the pumps have reached 140.2p a litre, with diesel at a new record of 146.7p.

It said petrol prices had risen nearly 3p a litre in just three weeks, with the cost at only 132.3p a litre at the beginning of the year, amid warnings prices will soon head towards 150p a litre. The price of diesel at the start of 2012 stood at an average of 140.6p.

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In his Budget, Chancellor George Osborne said the fuel duty rise planned for August, which with VAT added will amount to 3.6p a litre more for road users, would be going ahead.

Motoring expert Quentin Willson, national spokesman for the FairFuelUK campaign group, said: “Oil prices are going up and up and up. Mr Osborne could have acted to cushion the UK economy but he ignored our warnings and the desperate pleas of the tens of millions of people who can’t cope with the highest cost of petrol and diesel ever seen in this country.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable yesterday confirmed the Government had been involved in international talks over releasing state-held stockpiles of oil to keep fuel prices down. He claimed the Government’s move last year to scrap the fuel escalator would save motorists on average 6p a litre by the summer and blamed the fuel price hike on increasing tensions in the Middle East.

He told the Federation of Small Businesses meeting in Scarborough that the coalition had to “strike a reasonable balance” between getting the budget deficit down and helping motorists and businesses.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, who was also at the conference, said he was “sceptical” about whether releasing oil stocks could make any difference to world prices.