Over the last few months I have made an assessment of the impact of the recession on rural areas, including the effects of rising fuel prices on businesses and families in Wales. We recognise that businesses, individuals and families are struggling with the rising cost of fuel, and we are looking at how we can help.
Following on from the Minister’s assessment, what representations has he made on extending the Government’s fuel duty rebate for the islands of Scotland and Cornwall to large tracts of rural Wales, where sparsity, economic dependence and inadequate public transport make this a pressing issue?
I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that the last time I filled up in Colwyn bay the price was approximately 133p. He will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has indicated that these are matters that will be considered in the Budget next week.
But is the Minister aware that the dramatic rise in petrol and diesel prices is crippling motorists in Wales, especially those on low or middle incomes? In many Welsh communities people have absolutely no choice but to drive, and with wages frozen or falling, inflation high and today unemployment in Wales surging up, they are getting desperate. Will the Government reverse the VAT rise on fuel? It is what business wants, what motorists are crying out for, and what Wales and the whole of Britain needs.
Given that I come from a rural constituency, I am acutely aware of the points that the right hon. Gentleman makes. I would remind him that the escalator that is due to kick in next month is Labour’s escalator, and this is a matter that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will be looking at.