Online petition means fuel duty freeze might just happen

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Filling up with fuel
An online petition containing 110,000 signatures has forced the Commons to debate scrapping the planned 3p fuel duty hike in January. See, getting angry on the internet sometimes isn't completely pointless.

As a result, over 100 MPs have signed a motion calling on the Government to scrap the duty. Problem is, that doesn't mean that the Chancellor actually has to do anything - all it does is let him know what the MPs and the people want.

Chancellor George Osborne is due to give his Autumn Statement this month, in which he'll brief the nation on the plight of the economy. He could use that to announce that the 3p tax hike will be stopped.

Fuel prices in the UK vary wildly, with the highest generally found in the remotest parts of Scotland and the lowest at supermarket chains. The average today, according to petrolprices.com, is 133.7p per litre for unleaded and 140.9p for diesel.

According to Tory MP Robert Halfon, who tabled the motion in the commons, the Government must freeze the tax to help "hard-working, vulnerable Britons."

The additional 3p tax will add around £1.50 to the price of the average tank of fuel - an amount that may well deprive millions of service station users of their customary Pepperami and Pepsi combo from the forecourt.

On a more serious note, fuel prices some time ago escalated above the point at which drivers were forced to think about whether running a car was worth it; petrol and diesel has tripled at the forecourts over the last 20 years.

And given how big a deal breaking through the £1 per litre barrier was only a few years ago, it's harrowing to think that a £1.50 average is fast approaching. Next stop, £2 per litre. Stop after that, the bus stop.

Motoring journalist and professional charmer Quentin Wilson, spokesman for pressure group FairFuel UK, which was behind the online petition, clams that "there are desperate, desperate people who cannot afford to use the roads."

The Government, taking its opportunity with typical political efficiency, is once again pointing out that the average price would be even higher if it hadn't scrapped Labour's automatic fuel duty increase system. Labour, meanwhile, is demanding "concrete action" from the Government, not just "warm words".

A fuel price stabiliser will finally be introduced next year, after lots of talk about it. It's likely to be announced in the 2012 budget - and there's even hope that VAT will be cut too, primarily to increase consumer spending, but reducing the pump prices by default.

It's not just the driver that's suffering as a result of fuel duty - which accounts for well over two thirds of the price of a litre at the pumps. The haulage industry is suffering too. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) backed FairFuel UK in setting the petition up.

In a statement released today, FTA boss Theo de Pencier said: "Thanks to tremendous support for our campaign from industry, MPs and the public, the government has now heard first hand how high levels of fuel tax have not just hurt an industry beset by redundancies and insolvencies, but actually reduced the amount of revenue taken by the Treasury."

Time will tell whether the people get what they want.