Osborne set to delay planned fuel price hike

GEORGE Osborne is ready to scrap a planned increase to fuel duty, a leading backbencher suggested yesterday.

Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow, told City A.M. that he will not back today’s Commons motion calling for January’s 3p per litre rise to be delayed – because the government is already considering such action.

This is the clearest hint yet that the Treasury is set to freeze the amount of tax on petrol, with an announcement likely to be made in the chancellor’s autumn statement on 5 December.

Labour has scheduled an opposition day debate for today, where it will call for the rise to be postponed until at least April.

But Halfon said he would vote against the motion: “The government will make the decision [on whether to freeze fuel duty] in the autumn statement. I think it’s fair to wait a few weeks. If I didn’t think they were in listening mode then, believe me, I would vote the other way.”

The average price of unleaded petrol is currently around 135p a litre and includes 58p of fuel duty, as well as 22.5p of VAT. Halfon has made his name by campaigning to lower fuel costs, which he describes as “the number one issue for my constituents”.

Today’s Commons debate was arranged by shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who Halfon accuses of opportunism: “He makes the Vicar of Bray look like Gandhi – in 2010 he voted for a fuel duty rise and in 2011 he voted against a cut.”