Farmers welcome fuel duty U-turn

Farmers have welcomed confirmation that the planned August 3p-a-litre rise in fuel duty has been cancelled.

Chancellor George Osborne told MPs that fuel duty would be frozen for the rest of the year.

Mr Osborne said: “We are on the side of working families and businesses and this will fuel our recovery at this very difficult economic time for the world.”

The government was “doing everything we can in very, very difficult economic circumstances”, he added.

SNP Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP, who was leading the campaign against the rise, said: “This is a great result, not just for our cross-party campaign with FairFuel to scrap the August increase, but for households and businesses up and down the country.”

Farmers who have already been hit by spikes in other commodities this year, especially fertiliser and chemical prices, welcomed the news.

Lincolnshire farmer Jonathan Fenwick, who farms 2,000ha mostly from his base at Beelsby House, Grimsby, also runs a large national haulage enterprise.

Mr Fenwick said about 45% of his haulage business costs are spent on fuel and a further 3p rise would have been “another nail in the coffin for haulage businesses”.

“We run 20 vehicles, which use a total of 18,000l of fuel a week. A 3p rise in fuel duty would have increased our fuel costs by £550 a week – that’s equivalent to an employee’s wages,” he added.

“We are struggling, to be honest, to keep going at the minute. We get no preferential treatment with fuel pricing at all.

“Everything that comes on my farm and goes off my farm has to go on a lorry twice. Commodity prices have been good, but as well as fuel, fertiliser and chemical prices have gone up.”

Mr Fenwick urged the coalition government to go a step further and issue an essential fuel user rebate – like VAT.

The Countryside Alliance praised Mr Osborne’s decision to scrap the fuel duty rise.
Barney White-Spunner, executive chairman of the Countryside Alliance, said: “In March I described the car as an ‘unaffordable necessity’ for many rural families, because the cost of running a vehicle in the countryside has increased far beyond any rise in rural wages.

“So the chancellor’s decision to scrap the planned rise in fuel duty is very welcome and a timely boost for the rural economy. Although times are tough in the countryside, where a car is an essential part of living, this freeze will go a long way to helping out hard-pressed rural motorists.”