Fuel duty is vital to the total tax take

AS A driver who, I must admit, likes getting behind the wheel I can easily sympathise with the calls for a cut in fuel duty – or the introduction of a “fuel price stabiliser.”

That would lower the duty if the cost of crude oil rose or raise it if the price falls.

It sounds attractive and there was a sort-of commitment to such a policy change in last year’s Conservative manifesto.

But I’m not surprised that the government seems reluctant to introduce the change – I can’t see it happening anytime soon.

For a start HM Treasury needs all the tax money it can get its hands on right now if it wants to cut the deficit as fast as it hopes.

I know the opposition questions the proposal to eliminate the structural deficit in four years – and that there are many economists who share their scepticism.

But that is the main plank of the government’s economic policy. And frankly if it is going to be achieved they can’t even think about reducing their tax take.

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And like it or not fuel duty is a vital element of the government’s overall tax receipts.

We might complain about the cost, but the fact is most of us will continue to use our cars as usual and, if necessary, make sacrifices elsewhere.

And of course there is the green element of fuel duty – it remains the simplest way for the government to be seen to be discourage people from using their cars.

Whether it does or not remains an open question – as I’ve already said, I suspect that the price of fuel doesn’t actually have much effect on vehicle use.

It does, however, allow the government to claim it is being serious about environmental concerns while raking in the cash.

So whatever noises the government makes about easing the burden on motorists and promises to look at a fuel price stabiliser, I’m not holding my breath.

My suspicion is they will try to tough it out in the hope that eventually the world price of oil will fall and then there will be pressure on them to leave well alone – while continuing to rake in the billions from the motorists at the fuel pumps across Britain.