Foreign hauliers should pay a new tax for operating in Britain in order to “save” the domestic industry, according to a Midland MP.
Daniel Kawczynski (Con Shrewsbury & Atcham) warned that the haulage industry was on its knees as a result of the soaring price of fuel.
Shropshire truckers will join hauliers from across the country in a protest outside the House of Commons next week. They will drive lorries through Parliament square, in an effort to highlight the difficulties their industry is suffering.
Earlier this week it emerged that the average price of diesel in Britain had broken the £6 a gallon mark for the first time – the equivalent to 131.9p a litre.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Kawczynski said the pressure on hauliers was just one example of the way the rural economy was suffering as a result of rising prices and the credit crunch.
He said: “I met a delegation of 50 Shropshire haulage industry operators the other day, and they are appalled about what is happening to their industry. They are on their knees and they do not see how they can see out the year if petrol prices remain at current levels.
“One thing that would cost very little would be for Ministers to impose a tax on foreign hauliers using our transport system. That would be a relatively cheap measure for them to introduce, but if we are to save Shropshire’s and England’s haulage industry, it is pivotal that the Government undertake it.”
He accused the Government of focusing resources in inner cities - and neglected rural areas. But people in the shires were suffering the effects of worsening economic conditions, he claimed.
“I shall give the Minister the example of a lovely couple who came to see me; they are happy for me to share their details. He is 84 and she is 83, and they live in the village of Dorrington, where they have to run a bed and breakfast to make ends meet.
“They cannot afford to live on their pensions, so they have turned their home into a B and B. That is astounding in what is allegedly the fourth largest economy in the world.”
Treasury Minister Yvette Cooper, speaking in the same debate, told MPs that rising fuel costs were a worldwide problem.
She said: “This is an important debate at a time when families across the country face pressure from rising world food and fuel prices. Those prices are going up across the world, not just here in Britain.
“Oil prices have nearly doubled in a year. Whereas a barrel of oil cost $10 a decade ago, a few weeks ago the price rose by that much in one day alone. That puts up the cost of petrol at the pump, as well as the cost of gas and electricity bills, which have themselves risen by 15 per cent and more than 12 per cent respectively in the last 12 months
She added: “The problem affects not just oil, but food. Global food prices have also risen by over 40 per cent in the last year, with basics such as rice and wheat hitting new highs. The increased price of bread and eggs in the shops has an impact on families.”