Balls to Fuel Duty

Labour Party Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has waded into the growing row over August’s prospective 3p-a-litre fuel duty rise by confirming that the Opposition will use next week’s Budget to seek an amendment delaying the levy until January 2013.

The Government’s position continues to be that the rise is needed due to Labour’s final Budget – a rise voted for by Balls at the time. This has caused Balls to come out fighting, claiming that Chancellor George Osborne needs to respond to the economic conditions that continue to undermine quality of life for hard working British families.

Balls told Radio Four’s Today programme:

“He (Osborne) can’t blame what happened two years ago. A sensible chancellor takes off his ideological blinkers and does the right thing for the economy and for families.”

Balls has also banged his drum in The Sun, adding:

“The government should be giving our economy a boost – not clobbering families, businesses and pensioners just at the wrong time. David Cameron and George Osborne may have never had to worry about the cost of filling up their car, but it’s time they started listening to those who do.”

Transport Secretary Justine Greening is sticking firmly to the line that, in view of falling global oil prices, it was up to consumers to lobby retailers to cut prices.

However, Greening’s position bemuses Balls:

“Since the beginning of the year there’s been a 20% fall in the oil price but so far no fall in the pump price for motorists. The government’s got a decision to make in the next few weeks – do they go ahead with this duty rise in August? In my view, the government should be pressurising the oil companies to get the pump price down not giving the oil companies an excuse to raise prices by 3p or 4p a litre.”

Labour believes that delaying the petrol rise until January of next year would cost the Government £500 million. Taking advantage of the recent Jimmy Carr debacle, they have suggested the money could be recouped by closing tax loopholes, or by taking up the £500 million underspend at this summer’s Olympics.

Support for the delay continues to grow. It is thought that a number of coalition MPs are due to support Labour’s amendment while Top Gear’s Quentin Wilson, speaking for FairFuel UK, concluded:

“MPs of all parties need to have the courage of their convictions, put party issues aside and come together to vote against the rise.”

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