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By Paul Goodman
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Hansard records me as having said on July 4 2006, while responding on behalf of the Conservative front bench to a Liberal Democrat motion to reduce fuel duty in remote rural areas, which had been moved by the honourable member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey:
"The transport problems faced by people in remove rural areas are, as we have heard, formidable. Large vehicles are needed for agricultural and other work—that is not usually the case in urban areas—public transport is often non-existent, and there is far greater reliance on cars than in urban and suburban areas, as the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey quite fairly pointed out. Our quality of life policy group, chaired by my right hon. Friend the member for Suffolk Coastal, is therefore examining those issues as we formulate our policy programme in the run-up to the next election. That is preferable to introducing in the first year of a Parliament a series of hasty and apparently unfinanced tax cuts that show no sign of being properly thought through, and which, alas, open those who propose them to the charge of opportunism."
What I had of course meant to say was:
"Every single word said by my honourable friend the member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey was absolutely right, needless to say, and I know that my right honourable friend the member for Suffolk Coastal agrees entirely. He may neither be able to define what a remote rural area is, nor be able to cost his proposal, but I look forward – or, rather, my right honourable and honourable friends look forward, because for one reason or another I will be unable to assist them – to introducing fuel duty tax cuts for drivers who just happen in many cases to live in Liberal Democrat constituencies. This will help to reassure them that reason remains for continuing to vote for that party once it has signed up in a Coalition Government to a Conservative-led plan to elimate the structural deficit within five years."
At least, I suppose that might be my "line to take" were I still an MP. The Sun reports today that the EU has graciously allowed the Government to implement the plan championed then by the member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, otherwise now known as –
"Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander…said: "It's terrific news. We've delivered on a promise to help address the unfairness of some of the lowest income communities paying the highest pump prices. After years of people saying this could not be done, the Government has delivered in less than two…The price cut [the story says earlier] will cover islands off Scotland's West Coast and the Scilly Isles where petrol is most expensive. It is another boost for The Sun's Keep It Down campaign and piles more pressure on Chancellor George Osborne to cancel the planned fuel duty rise in Tuesday's autumn statement."
Tim wrote yesterday about the Liberal Democrats taking credit for a new Government employment scheme and the uprating of benefits. A leak in today's Mail also gives the party credit for a claimed new coming tax on banks.
This may be further evidence that the Quad is now leaky. It certainly proves that Liberal Democrats are determined to present themselves as the warm-hearted partner in the Government, screwing concessions out of cold-hearted Conservatives.