Drive for fuel duty discount in rural areas welcomed

MOTORING groups have welcomed the Treasury’s announcement that it is considering lobbying the European Commission for a fuel duty discount for rural mainland areas.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, confirmed the possible move while being questioned on possible fuel duty reductions in remote parts of the UK mainland during a visit to Cornwall.

He said any relief to hard-up rural motorists would not be immediate, but he was keen to hear from anyone making a case for the discount.

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It comes nearly a year after a similar discount scheme – five pence off a litre of fuel – was offered to some of Britain’s island communities.

Mr Alexander said: “We introduced, for the first time ever in this country, a fuel duty discount last year. I am looking at the moment at whether a case can be made to Brussels to allow a delegation for some of the most remote mainland areas in the UK as well.

“The process is a complicated one, and there’s a very high hurdle in the sense that we have to be able to persuade the European Commission and get all of the other 26 member states to vote for it as well.”

A survey last year revealed diesel prices in rural filling stations were, on average, 4p more than in urban areas. Rural communities have also said a low density of supermarket-tied filling stations means increased costs at the pump, compared with urban areas where competition has helped drive prices down.

Both the RAC and the AA welcomed the idea of a fuel duty discount, but AA president Edmund King urged greater transparency on fuel prices.

He added: “Simply having a transparent wholesale price would have avoided that trauma but this was not recommended in the recent OFT report on fuel pricing.

“The fact of the matter is that, without fuel price transparency, rural drivers don’t know if the full rebate is being passed on, and become suspicious.”