The Birmingham MP who warned Gordon Brown that families were struggling with rising bills has welcomed the Government’s decision to scrap a planned 2p hike in fuel duty.
Mr Brown confirmed that a planned increase due this autumn would not go ahead, after he was questioned by Richard Burden (Lab Northfield).
The rise had originally been due this April, but had been pushed back to October.
But with oil prices nearly doubling over the past year, there has been mounting pressure for a further delay.
The Tories upped the ante last week by proposing a “fair fuel duty stabiliser” which would lower the levy when the cost of oil went up, and increase it when it fell.
The Government has also come under heavy fire over reforms to road tax, which it has admitted will leave 9.4 million drivers worse off, including many on lower incomes who drive older cars which cause more pollution than newer models.
Mr Burden was the first MP to quiz Mr Brown during yesterday’s session of questions to the Prime Minister, the last before the summer recess.
Tory leader David Cameron later accused him of asking a “planted question”, after he gave the Prime Minister an opportunity to confirm the fuel duty decision.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Burden said: “People are having real problems with rising household bills and fuel bills, but I feel they do understand that these are international problems and there is a limit to what any government can do.”
He added: “The Government’s decision was good news. When fuel prices are shooting through the roof, there is no need for an increase on top of that.”
Mr Cameron accused the Government of changing its policy because it feared defeat in the Glasgow East by-election, where Labour is defending a majority of 13,500.
He said: “ The Government announced today that after months of dithering, it is scrapping the 2p tax rise on fuel.
“Can you tell us if this decision had anything to do with the Glasgow East by-election?”
Mr Brown said it was right to announce the decision before the recess next week.
He said: “The Conservatives said vote blue, go green. They said they were going to take action against pollution. The minute they are challenged on it they walk away.
“That’s the history of the Conservative Party.”
Mr Cameron retorted: “The message is vote blue and get rid of this useless Prime Minister.
“So the fuel duty had nothing to do with the by-election where it is a massive issue - just as, presumably, the 10p tax u-turn had nothing to do with Crewe and Nantwich; just as the plan to call off the election had nothing to do with the polls. Once again you cannot be straight with people.”
Mr Darling announced yesterday he was “postponing” the rise in order to “help motorists and businesses get through what is a difficult time for everyone”.
The Chancellor’s decision was welcomed by the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Senior policy adviser Katie Teasdale said: “We have been calling on the Chancellor to scrap these proposals since the last Budget and businesses - and drivers - will be relieved that he has finally acted.
“We hope that this marks the beginning of a real engagement between the Government and business and that we can look forward to further support for our firms in the Chancellor’s pre-Budget report in the autumn.
Motoring organisations also welcomed the move but called for more to be done to ease the pressure on motorists.
The RAC said: “This is welcome news but it does not go far enough. We would like to see the Chancellor not just postpone future rises but actually cut fuel duty.”
Karen Dee, head of infrastructure at the CBI, said: “This will be a welcome relief for hard-pressed hauliers, businesses and other motorists, especially since fuel prices have risen so much.
“But in the longer term, the Government needs to level out the playing field so that UK hauliers can compete with their foreign counterparts who enjoy far cheaper fuel prices.”