News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fuel Protests

Today has seen a day of fuel protests by hauliers, campaigning against the high levels of duty on fuel. The most recent figures I can find (from 2007) show that a litre of fuel includes about 63p of tax, setting the price to about 115p per litre around Folkestone. That compares to 122 cents (approx 62p) in Alberta, where tax is currently 9 cents (around 4.5p).

Apparently, today's protests had two objectives. The first was to get the government to scrap this autumn's 2p rise. The other was to get a rebate for hauliers, as buses do already, to enable them to compete with foreign haulage firms. I certainly support the former, and fully sypmathise with the latter. However, I don't believe that declaring hauliers to be "essential users" entitled to the rebate is a sensible solution. It would mean that a lorry carrying luxury goods would get cheaper fuel, but a nurse driving to work at a hospital to treat the critically ill would be charged the full rate of tax. Is jewellery really more essential than life saving medical treatment?

It seems to me that there are two problems. The first is faced by all motorists - high petrol prices, caused by excessive taxation. The second, faced by hauliers, is unfair competition. The first should be tackled by cutting tax on motorists. The second should be tackled by charging foreign hauliers for using our roads, just as British hauliers have to pay tolls throughout much of Europe.

One final thing did surprise me. One of the leaders of the protests was one Peter Carroll, of Shepway Lib Dems. For those who don't know him, he's a local councillor and was the Lib Dem PPC at the last two elections. I'm not only surprised because I find myself in support of the broad aims of the protest which he is leading - surely a first. My greater surprise is that he has clearly gone a long way off the Lib Dem message. Let us not forget the Lib Dems' much heralded "Green Tax Switch", which would see tax on fuel rising in line with inflation. By my calculations, current inflation is 4% (the governement uses rpix for inflation when raising taxes, rather than the cpi measure it uses for pay rises etc) and tax at 63p/l would give an increase of roughly 2.5p/l, which is more than the government in proposing!

Does this mean that he's fully abandoned his ambitions to be an MP, focussing his attention on his haulage business instead. Pure speculation on my part, I must confess.

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