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Fuel Prices

Volume 536: debated on Wednesday 23 November 2011

1. What discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues and Ministers in the Welsh Government on the effects of fuel prices on (a) rural and (b) urban areas in Wales; and if she will make a statement. (81780)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues and the Welsh Government on a range of issues, including the effects of fuel prices in Wales. The Government are addressing the rising cost of fuel through the abolition of the fuel tax escalator, the introduction of the fair fuel stabiliser and a cut in fuel duty announced at the Budget earlier this year.

I thank the Minister for that response. Will he impress upon the Secretary of State the need to push the Government to introduce a true fuel duty stabiliser that would trigger an annual reduction in the pump price, as the so-called fair fuel stabiliser announced in the March Budget does not go anywhere near far enough? The volatility in petrol prices means businesses cannot budget, as was noted yesterday by the Federation of Small Businesses in its submission for the autumn statement.

I hear what the right hon. Gentleman says, but I must point out to him that the tax measures we have taken have resulted in petrol prices being approximately 6p per litre lower than they would have been had that escalator not been scrapped. Even taking VAT into account, fuel prices are approximately 3p per litre lower than they would have been.

Further to that response, may I ask the Minister about a slightly different matter? What support are the UK Government providing for the use of electric cars? There are hardly any charging points all in Wales. There is not even one per constituency. What is being done to encourage that?

As the right hon. Gentleman suggests, this is the technology of the future. As he knows, provision is being rolled out in the urban areas, and I hope solutions will be found to ensure that rural users will also be able to have access to suitable charging points.

Does the Minister agree that although it would be highly desirable to reduce fuel costs, it is impossible to do so while we are running a deficit of £160 billion a year as a result of the past actions of Opposition Members?

For commuters and businesses in my constituency, high fuel prices are painful enough without the exorbitant cost of the Severn bridge tolls. If price increases follow the normal pattern, tolls will hit almost £6 per car this year. What action is the Secretary of State taking to help my constituents?

As the hon. Lady knows, the Severn bridge is privately operated. The franchise comes to an end in 2017, at which time the Government will consider their options.