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RMI urges action on petrol prices

Competitiveness minister Alan Johnson drew groans at the RMI annual dinner in London when he attempted to justify the Government's position on the fuel crisis.

Mr Johnson, part of the Department of Trade and Industry, said no British government would yield to blockades and ministers had attempted to react in a “proper and measured way”.

He recognised that people wanted cheaper petrol but the Government had increased investment in public services. There was a derisory response when the minister said: “This is not a government which is anti-cars. We have widened peoples' horizons and prosperity has been extended. We have put our nozzle where our fuel tank is.”

Earlier, Mr Johnson was told by president John Bond-Smith that the Retail Motor Industry Federation would make strong representations to Chancellor Gordon Brown over fuel taxation.

The RMI wanted the Government to examine closely the relationship between retailers and their oil company suppliers.

The next government could see the price soar through the £1 a litre barrier. With no change in the rate of fuel tax, that would mean a total of 66% tax in the price of each litre.

Mr Bond-Smith, whose Oxfordshire-based business includes franchised dealerships and a car auction company, spoke of “difficulties endured” in rural areas because of costly fuel. The number of filling stations had fallen from 30,000 in 1970 to 13,000.

“I sincerely hope the Government has listened to the voice of the people,” he said.

“They mean business and the most recent polls have only confirmed the mood of the British people.”

The RMI president went on to lambast the Government over the new car prices debate. He found it “quite incredible” ministers had allowed an industry employing 500,000 on the retail side alone to endure such a prolonged period of uncertainty.

Mr Bond-Smith did, however, add that the Government had listened to retailers' input on the Parliamentary order to make pricing clearer.

He hoped Block Exemption would be amended to reflect changes in the market and to promote new distribution channels.

Dotcom companies would play a major part in the future development of the industry though only some “well-executed, well-formulated and solid” companies would survive.

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