GEORGE Osborne yesterday vowed to freeze fuel duty for the next two years, ensuring the chancellor will go into the 2015 election without ever raising tax on petrol.
In a surprise announcement, the chancellor told the Conservative party conference in Manchester that, providing other savings can be found, he will ensure motorists are untouched.
“Conservatives don’t just talk about being on the side of hard-working people – we show it day in day out in the policies we deliver,” Osborne said.
The Conservatives claim that their decision to abolish the fuel duty escalator and other planned increases means petrol will be 13p a litre cheaper than if Labour had remained in power.
Harlow MP Robert Halfon, who has led successful campaigns against fuel duty rises, told City A.M. that the announcement is “fantastic news for hard-pressed motorists”.
“This is the first government to cut and freeze fuel duty in an entire parliament for many years,” he said. “Now we need oil companies to behave responsibly and reduce prices for motorists.”
Meanwhile, David Cameron will today announce a £50m pilot programme to enable individuals to contact their doctor from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week. Surgeries will be allowed to bid for the cash to develop new ways of treating patients.
“Millions of people find it hard to get an appointment to see their GP at a time that fits in with their work and family life,” Cameron said.
“We also want greater flexibility, so people can speak to their family doctor on the phone, send them an email or even speak to them on Skype.”
WHAT’S BEEN ANNOUNCED SO FAR
■ George Osborne has said a Conservative government would seek to run a budget surplus by 2020, requiring a continued commitment to austerity and another round of spending cuts that would hit those on benefits.
■ The Tories are laying down a challenge to Ed Miliband. They want the Labour leader to be portrayed as profligate compared to Osborne.
■ Married couples will receive a £200 tax boost from the 2015-16 financial year by transferring part of their personal allowance. But it will only benefit couples where one person earns less than £10,000 and the other earns less than £42,000.
■ Conservative backbenchers have long campaigned for marriage to be recognised in the tax system.
■ From April the long-term unemployed will have to attend jobcentres on a daily basis or undertake 35 hours of community work a week if they want to remain on benefits. This is designed to encourage people to take jobs.
■ New Tory campaign chief Lynton Crosby wants voters to know that they will not go easy on welfare claimants who can work.
■ The second part of the Help to Buy scheme will launch this week, rather than in January as originally planned. Government-backed mortgages will be available, enabling people to buy houses with a deposit of just five per cent.
■ Depending on your view, either to win votes by boosting house prices or to give a helping hand to first time buyers.
■ Theresa May wants to deport foreign criminals before hearing their appeals. She also floated the possibility of abolishing the Human Rights Act, which has been invoked by some foreign criminals.
■ Anti-EU feeling within the Tory party is driving opposition of the Human Rights Act, which is rooted in European law. It is seen as restricting British sovereignty.
■ Foreign lorries will have to pay to use UK roads from April 2014. Until now they have not paid any taxes to use the British network. There will also be a freeze on the price of fuel until the 2015 election.
■ UK hauliers have long complained that they are charged to use foreign roads but there is no equivalent agreement. This should level the playing field.
■ David Cameron will today announce a new scheme to make it easier for people with full time jobs to access healthcare through their local surgery.
■ Polling has repeatedly shown that the general public does not trust the Conservatives when it comes to the health service – and 50,000 pro-NHS protestors marched outside the conference on Saturday.
HIGH SPEED 2
■ David Cameron, George Osborne and other Conservative ministers have been resolute in their defence of the proposed north-south railway despite mounting criticism and increased opposition.
■ Osborne yesterday told the Manchester audience that the proposed railway will bring “more jobs and prosperity to great cities like this”.