Fuel duty cut for rural areas urged
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury was answering questions on possible fuel duty reductions in remote parts of the UK mainland during a visit to meet business leaders in Cornwall.
He said any relief to hard-up rural motorists would take a long time to get off the ground, but said he was keen to hear from those wishing to make a case for the discount.
It comes nearly a year after a similar discount scheme - 5p off a litre of fuel - was offered to some of Britain's island communities, including those on the Scillies.
"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 the price of diesel in rural filling stations was, on average, 4p more than in urban areas. Those in rural communities have also said a low density of supermarket-tied filling stations has meant increased costs at the pump, compared with urban areas where competition has helped drive prices down.
Mr Alexander said: "I can't make any promises at this point, but I am working on whether a justification can be made that is on the same basis as the justification for the islands.
"It's a long process, I would think that it will be around a year before we will have any real progress on that. I haven't made any decisions on which areas can actually make a case. I understand there are areas in Cornwall that want to make the case and I am sure through their elected representatives that can be presented.
"The case for the islands was made on the significant extra costs of delivering fuel to those areas. I'm not sure whether we will be able to do that (for the mainland) but I will certainly have a jolly good look at it."
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