Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander announced plans to reduce fuel duty by 5p in Scottish islands and remote communities yesterday at a Liberal Democrat party conference.
The cut will apply to Highland communities, the Northern Isles, the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the islands of the Clyde and the Isles of Scilly.
Mr Alexander said the measure was aimed at helping “hard-hit families” who generally pay higher fuel prices because of their outlying locations.
However Yorkshire MPs have called for it to be extended to remote areas of England including North Yorkshire.
Skipton and Ripon Tory MP Julian Smith said: “I am disappointed that North Yorkshire has not been included in this pilot scheme as it is the most rural county in England. It definitely should be considered as part of this as the rising cost of fuel prices is really harming businesses and individuals throughout the county. These are people who often have no choice but to travel by car as a way of getting around.”
Anne McIntosh, Tory MP for Thirsk and Malton, also called for the drop in fuel duty to be extended to remote areas across the country and places where motorists face the highest prices at the petrol pump.
She said: “Maintaining the status quo on fuel prices is just not an option. I have already had a debate in the House of Commons on this issue. The Government should stop the 1p increase in fuel duty that is due to come in on April 1. It needs to introduce a fuel stabiliser and it should introduce a rebate more broadly across rural areas – and North Yorkshire should certainly qualify.
“People in North Yorkshire have no choice but to pay at least £1.39 for a litre of diesel and £1.32 for a litre of petrol.
“It is something which is hurting farmers, it is hurting road hauliers and it is going to result in the cost of goods being pushed up as well.”
She said the cost people are being asked to pay in different regions of the country should be factored into any fuel discount.
Ministers are expected to provide an update in the Budget on the Tory proposal for a fuel stabiliser – which would reduce the amount of tax taken by the Government when oil prices rise.
Economic Secretary Justine Greening has also said the Government was considering “all options” in the run-up to the Budget on March 23, with the Treasury coming under increasing pressure to postpone its planned duty increase of 1p above inflation.
Announcing the fuel duty cut at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference yesterday, Mr Alexander said: “We will be submitting a formal application to the European Commission to deliver a 5p discount on fuel duty for Highland communities, the Northern Isles, the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the Islands of the Clyde and the Isles of Scilly too.
“These are places, more than anywhere in the country, feeling the pressure of high fuel prices.
“The pressure is huge on families in these areas, and I’m delighted to be part of the Government that, for the first time ever, is going to deliver that help to hard-hit families.” However AA president Edmund King has added to the calls for the rebate to be extended.
He said: “Drivers in the highlands and islands will welcome these proposals to cut fuel duty.
“Incomes in these areas tend to be lower and pump prices are always higher than the national average hence many hard-pressed families just can’t afford to fill up.
“However, with record prices at the pumps across the UK at 130.68p a litre for unleaded and 136.14p a litre for diesel there is a very strong case for fuel duty reductions across the board.
“I am sure that low-income drivers in Cornwall, Cumbria or Conwy will have as equally a strong case for fuel duty reductions due to hardship. We would like to see the Chancellor act to relieve the burden of spiralling fuel costs for all drivers and businesses across the UK.”