Thank you for contacting me about the fuel prices.
Fuel prices are of course a major concern when families all over the country are suffering in difficult economic times. The cost of petrol and diesel is a matter of great concern to everyone, particularly so in Penrith and The Border where a car is a necessity, not a luxury; and I am acutely aware of how major an issue fuel costs are to those hard working people who are struggling to make ends meet.
As you may be aware, a continuation of the freeze of fuel duty was promised during the election campaign. I welcome the fact that the decision to freeze fuel duty for ten consecutive years has saved the average driver over £1,000. I am confident that we can build on this legacy, so that ordinary hardworking people can keep more of their money.
However, it is worth noting that the fuel duty freeze comes at significant costs to the Exchequer, and that £67bn has been spent on freezing fuel duty and another £46bn will be spent by the end of 2025.
While I am aware of the arguments in favour of introducing an independent pump pricing watchdog, I do not believe such a move is necessary. I firmly believe that the most effective way to keep fuel prices down is through an open and competitive market. In 2013, the Office for Fair Trading investigated competition in the UK fuel sector and concluded that it was operating well. It should be highlighted that the Government works with numerous stakeholders to ensure that the fuel industry is competitive, so consumers benefit from low prices.
With regards to road infrastructure, I welcome the commitment to invest a total of £28.8 billion in England's strategic and local roads. I hope you are reassured by the fact that I am committed to the improvement of infrastructure for motorists.
I have also conveyed your comments on fuel duty to my colleagues at the Treasury, who assure me that all elements of taxation, including the various reliefs associated with any given tax, are kept under constant review. Any changes to fuel duty would be considered as part of the normal process leading up to the next Budget, and it has been announced that there will be no Budget this autumn.
My colleagues at the Treasury have also emphasised that any future fuel duty rates will be considered alongside measures that are needed to help meet the UK’s net zero commitment.
I fully support the Government’s legally binding target for the UK to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. While it is important to encourage active travel and greater use of public transport to help drive down emissions and improve air quality, the reality is that for many commuters and businesses it is simply not possible to forgo using a vehicle in all situations. We have to recognise that the transition to electric and alternatively-fuelled vehicles will play a crucial role in helping us reach net zero carbon emissions, so it is important that our local, major and strategic roads are fit for purpose, both now and in the future.