MP is still hopeful of extending rural fuel rebate

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The Government is coming under increasing pressure to seek EU approval to extend a rural fuel rebate pilot scheme to North Yorkshire.

Soaring prices at the pumps are hitting the pockets of businesses and locals hard with areas such as Hambleton and Ryedale facing some of the highest fuel prices in the country.

Calls have been made to extend a pilot scheme which offers a five pence-a-litre discount on fuel to motorists in the Scottish islands to other remote areas, such as North Yorkshire.

The Yorkshire Post wants the scheme to be extended to the region’s rural areas as part of its Give us a Fair Deal campaign, and in December Chancellor George Osborne pledged to seek the necessary agreement on such State Aid from the EU.

Now, in response to a parliamentary question from Anne McIntosh, MP, the Government has again said it is considering such an approach.

Miss McIntosh, Thirsk and Malton MP, and a former Euro MP, has said she is “confident” EU rules can be circumnavigated and believes the county can meet the qualifying criteria to obtain the approval of European counterparts. Yesterday she vowed to continue to put pressure on the Government to seek EU approval to extend the rural fuel rebate pilot scheme.

She said: “Thirsk, Malton and Filey is one of the most rural constituencies and is an obvious candidate for such a scheme.

“I am confident that the most remote areas of my constituency meet the criteria of distance from the pump that motorists have to travel and the price of fuel at the pump. I believe that we can meet the qualifying criteria to obtain the approval of the European Commission and EU State Aid rules

“I recently asked a Parliamentary Question to George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer and it has been made clear that the Government is considering whether to extend the scheme to other areas across the UK.

“Hambleton and Ryedale see some of the highest fuel prices in the country, and with constituents having to travel further to the pump due to the remote rural nature of North Yorkshire, this is having a crippling effect on many constituents and businesses.

“I am carrying out a sustained campaign against high fuel costs and in favour of a remote rural fuel duty rebate to get the best possible deal for those living in the Thirsk, Malton and Filey constituency,” Miss McIntosh added yesterday.

Campaigners argue that the cost of fuel, while being a huge burden on motorists generally, inevitably weighs even more heavily on all those who live and work in rural areas such as North Yorkshire where travelling distances are usually much greater and public transport infrequent if not non-existent.

Treasury Minister Sajid Javid, replying to the MP’s question, said: “The retail price of petrol and diesel is affected by a range of factors and varies across the regions of the UK.

“Motorists on the Scottish islands and the Isles of Scilly are benefitting from a five pence per litre discount on pump prices since the Government introduced the rural fuel rebate pilot scheme last year.

“The Government will consider whether to seek EU approval for an extension of the scheme to remote parts of the UK that are likely to display similar cost characteristics to the islands,” Mr Javid added.