Ten-year freeze on fuel duty has helped us all — don't increase it, Rishi

IT’S like Groundhog Day.

Since 2011 I have, along with the Sun’s Keep It Down campaign, presented coherent and independent economic evidence to then-Chancellors George Osborne, Philip Hammond and Sajid Javid that increasing fuel duty is destructive in terms of the economy, jobs, inflation, shop prices, investment, small businesses, low-income families, white van drivers and the haulage industry.

They all listened and fuel tax has been kept frozen for ten years.

Despite our substantial proof, we hear that current Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the Treasury are seriously mulling over raising the levy.

If that happens, all common sense in the Conservative Party’s ­traditional low-tax philosophy will be thrown out, to be swapped for a highway-robbery mindset.

Such a needless, ineffective cash grab may cost the Tories hard-won Northern seats, and the chance to win future ­elections so comfortably again.

Furthermore, the Treasury disingenuously conveys that they have lost billions by capping fuel duty.

These Pinocchio retorts from the Commons despatch box — espousing a twisted view that the Treasury is the wounded martyr for not increasing this punitive, regressive tax — are wrong.

‘VICIOUS FISCAL KICK IN THE LOGISTICS’

This intuitive, hugely popular and ingrained Conservative policy of frozen fuel taxes has generated extra Exchequer revenue through more growth taxes.

The policy’s fruitful outcome of adding to GDP growth, lowering inflation, and helping to raise employment is why duty should, in fact, be cut or at least kept frozen — to ensure more of the same.

The empirical truth is that, over the past ten years, the fuel duty freeze has benefitted everyone.

It is gradually bringing the UK rate of fuel tax into line with the rest of Europe.

The Centre for Economic and Business Research says it has reduced inflation by 6.7 per cent and bettered household real incomes, especially those of the poorest households, by £24billion per year.

Why would Boris abandon a key part of a “proven to be effective” pre-Covid fiscal ­policy, when taxing fuel hits the impoverished hardest — with those above the Watford Gap suffering most and those closeted in London the least?

Outside the “out of touch” ­capital, motorists spend two to three times more of their income on filling their vehicles.

And despite our work over the past decade to keep the levy frozen, British motorists are still the most highly taxed in the world — which is another reason to leave this tax untouched.

An average haulier spends 40 per cent-plus of their hard-fought sales fuelling their high-tech, “increasingly low-emission” chariots.

And 65 per cent of these filling-up costs contribute to the Treasury’s fifth-largest income, without fail.

High streets are in demise and the exponential move to online deliveries is critically even more reliant on low distribution cost.

Truckers all work on tissue-thin margins. As Richard Burnett, CEO of the Road Haulage Association, says: “For an industry that has to make every penny count, the effect of a duty increase of just 1p per litre will be devastating and will mean the end of the road for many operators.”

Unlike the UK, the rest of the developed world puts lower fuel duty on to diesel than petrol. Those countries recognise the nation’s commercial heartbeat is haulage, distribution, and an explosion of white van deliveries.

The effect of a duty increase of just 1p per litre will mean the end of the road for many operators.

But now our all-powerful Government is ­planning to reward our route to economic ­recovery with a vicious fiscal kick in the logistics.

The Treasury will be risking party political suicide in breaking the Prime Minister’s promise to the nation prior to his landslide general election win.

‘VAT GOES ON TO FUEL DUTY TOO’

Following a question that was put to him by The Sun’s political team, he clearly espoused that fuel duty would NOT be hiked.

He personally told me, ­following Brexit, that we would regain control of our VAT rates. Insidiously, VAT goes on to fuel duty, too.

Nearly half of Tory-voting motorists in a FairFuelUK survey said they would ditch the party at the next election if the Chancellor hiked fuel duty in his 2020 Budget. That was 12 months ago.

A poll last November showed one in four is angry at the anti-driver policies flooding out of the Department for Transport. And our opinion has not changed.

The Centre for Economic and Business Research says the current fiscal crisis is long term and will need up to 50 years of revenue-raising, and expenditure constraint.

Any revenue gains from higher fuel duties will be only temporary, and evaporate over time.

So it seems senseless to cause such immense political and ­economic damage by targeting drivers, for little long-term benefit, in the name of paying off the pandemic bill.

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