Justine Greening, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, used an SNP debate on fuel duty to spell out the Coalition's related thinking yesterday:
The level of deficit and debt that we have been left as a country costs the British taxpayer £120 million every single day: "To put that in the context of a 1p a litre rise in fuel duty, which is worth £500 million, the British taxpayer will pay as much in debt interest over the course of four or five days as they will pay in fuel duty, if fuel duty is subject to a 1p a litre rise. That demonstrates two things, the first of which is the importance of tackling the deficit. Clearly, this country cannot continue to pay this expense of £120 million a day and it has to be tackled, because we are spending more on servicing our debt than on transport. The challenge for this country is that if we do not get this £500 million of real money from fuel duty, it has to come from somewhere else. The Government have made it clear that they want to try to protect key spending, for example, on the NHS-the Labour party did not want to do that-and schools."
Fuel duty's disproportionate impact on rural voters: "The Government understand the challenges faced by people in rural areas in relation to fuel costs, which those of us in city and urban areas perhaps do not face. I know that those people cannot easily shop around nearby petrol stations to get the best deal in the way that other people can. I understand the arguments about the lack of public transport as an alternative and that the car is often the most realistic mode of transport. That is precisely way we are working towards getting a derogation so that we can get on with putting in place pilots to look at how a rural fuel rebate would work."
The Fair Fuel Stabiliser: "In opposition and in government, we have always recognised the impact on motorists of the unstable oil price, which feeds through to pump prices. In setting up a stabiliser, we need to ensure that it works as intended, so the first step was to ask the Office for Budget Responsibility to look at how oil prices feed into the economy and affect public finances. We have commissioned that work, as the hon. Lady will know, and now need to take on board its outcomes before looking at how it feeds into policy making. It would not be right to pre-empt the Budget."
In terms of bringing relief to motorists, George Osborne's announcement, this morning, of an £800m extra tax on banks gives him some more wiggle room for next month's budget.