Minister fuels hopes for rural drivers

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A SECOND Minister has boosted hopes that a fuel discount scheme for rural areas could be extended to North Yorkshire.

Treasury Minister Chloe Smith revealed “nothing has been ruled in or out” after being quizzed on the issue by Skipton and Ripon MP Julian Smith.

Residents on remote Scottish Islands and the Isles of Scilly are due to start enjoying a 5p per litre discount on fuel from March 1 as part of a pilot scheme by the Treasury to ease the impact of soaring fuel costs.

But the Government has faced repeated pressure from Yorkshire MPs to extend it to remote parts of this region if it proves a success amid concern at the crippling impact of petrol and diesel prices which have soared in recent years. Rural areas have been hardest hit because prices are often higher and residents are more reliant on their cars.

On Saturday, the Yorkshire Post revealed how Environment Minister Richard Benyon had said the Government was “looking at” whether the scheme could be rolled out.

Now Ms Smith said: “Beyond the pilot scheme, nothing has been ruled in or out.”

Responding to her comments, Mr Smith said: “I am pleased the Government are not ruling out extending this pilot scheme to North Yorkshire. As England’s most rural county, the cost of fuel is a major issue which impacts on farmers, bus services, food prices and people who have to travel around the county day-in day-out.

“The high price can restrict growth and it is important we do all we can at the moment to reduce the barriers to firms expanding.

“I will be continuing to press the Government to extend this pilot programme to North Yorkshire in the coming months.”

Last week, Chancellor George Osborne announced he was cancelling a 3p fuel duty increase planned for January. He also reduced one planned for August from 5p to 3p.