Government accused of ‘doing nothing’ about ‘fair’ petrol pricing

Petrol prices: RAC spokesperson reacts to criticism from The AA

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The UK Government has come under furious attack by a campaign group after being accused of “encouraging drivers to be fleeced” at the petrol pumps as millions of Britons struggle with the cost of living crisis. Earlier today, BP revealed underlying profits of £7.1billion for the three months to September – more than double the £2.9billion figure posted for the same period in 2021. The staggering number was also significantly higher than the £5.3billion profits many leading market analysts had been expecting.

Last week, rival Shell said its adjusted earnings more than doubled to £8.2billion over its latest quarter as gas prices remained high.

The average price of a litre of unleaded petrol (including VAT) is 166.38p, according to road safety group the RAC. Although this has dropped from 191.43p on July 1, it is also still significantly higher than the 108.80 per litre cost at the pumps just two years ago.

Diesel is even more expensive, currently costing 190.51 per litre, with the RAC’s latest forecasts warning this is likely to rise even further.

But Howard Cox, founder of campaign group FairFuelUK, has accused the Government of “still doing nothing to ensure pump pricing is fair, honest and transparent”.

He told “Healthy profits are vital, but profiteering must be checked. It is clear that in the last three years the fuel supply chain has more than doubled its retail margins at the pumps.

“We must not blame the small independent garages as they are not profiteering. No, it’s the big wholesalers and branded oil corporations who supply them, that are still fleecing the UK economy, the world’s highest taxed drivers and making our cost of living even more dire.”

Mr Cox added: “I feel physically sick the Government still does nothing to ensure pump pricing is fair, honest and transparent. They are actually encouraging drivers being fleeced at the pumps.

“An independent consumer pricing watchdog, PumpWatch would be simple to implement and popular with voters.

“The billions of extra VAT from high pump prices, notably from the current dishonest cost of diesel, that the Treasury continues to enjoy is clouding this Government’s decision making, to act on behalf of consumers and alleviating the cost of living crisis.”

The FairFuelUK founder claimed Shell and BP are “wallowing in obscene profits, whilst drivers are struggling to pay their escalating pump prices”.

He called on new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to announce a significant reduction to fuel duty in the Autumn Statement that would drive down prices at the petrol pumps.

Mr Cox said: “Rishi Sunak promised us he’d reduce inflation, yet he and the Treasury continue to ignore the most influential impact on rising prices.

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“Crippling petrol and especially diesel prices remain the biggest angst for drivers and businesses. Shell and now BP are wallowing in obscene profits, whilst drivers are struggling to pay their escalating pump prices.

“The Chancellor must cut fuel duty big, to drive down consumer prices. At a stroke of Jeremy Hunt’s pen, slashing one of the world’s highest taxes will deliver economic growth, more business investment, higher wages, and increased consumer spending.”

BP’s bumper quarter profits has also only added to mounting pressure for an enhanced windfall tax on oil and gas giants to help fill the Treasury coffers.

The oil giant has confirmed it expects to pay around £693m ($800m) in UK windfall tax this year, a levy introduced in May by then-Chancellor Mr Sunak earlier this year, which applies to profits made from extracting UK oil and gas.

It has told shareholders it will pay out £2.2billion ($2.5billion) in taxes for its UK North Sea business this year, as well as £695million ($800million) of tax related to the energy profits levy.

But last week, Shell warned it does not expect to pay out for the tax this year as firms have the ability to offset potential tax payments through investment.

The Government now finds itself under mounting pressure for an enhanced windfall tax on oil and gas giants to help fill the Treasury coffers.

Cop26 president Alok Sharma, who was demoted from the Cabinet by Mr Sunak, said: “We need to raise more money from a windfall tax on oil and gas companies and actively encourage them to invest in renewables.”

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