Speaking last week in Parliament, North Antrim MP Ian Paisley highlighted the disproportionately high fuel prices Northern Ireland pays in comparison to the rest of the UK.
The debate in Westminster raised many issues specific to Northern Ireland in relation to the escalating prices. It was noted that fuel costs had reached a critical level, and that rural communities within Northern Ireland were the worst affected as they have a total reliance on cars for transport purposes.
Also pointed out was the insufficient amount of investment that has been made into Northern Ireland’s transport infrastructure, leaving the population increasingly dependent on cars and therefore more susceptible to the high fuel prices.
Speaking during the debate, Mr Paisley said: “Since we became Members of Parliament two years ago, the one issue we have debated most is fuel duty and the implications of its constantly rising cost. The little piece of water between the mainland and Northern Ireland — those 17 miles — is the most expensive stretch of water in these islands, as it inflates prices of fuel disproportionately.
“For our rural constituencies, the smack is double, because rural areas suffer more. The luxury of car transport is a necessity to get kids to school, and people to work and into employment.”
Other issues raised during the debate startled the North Antrim MP, who has a large number of constituents in North Antrim who live in a rural setting.
These included the fact that in January this year, diesel prices in Northern Ireland were the highest in the EU, alongside our petrol which is already the highest in the UK.
The location specific pricing is also affecting rural communities more harshly because of the absence of large supermarkets in some remote areas, which is reducing competition and causing prices to remain even higher.
After the debate, Paisley spoke of the need for immediate action to resolve the issue.
He said: “I think it’s pretty apparent that Northern Ireland is getting an exceptionally harsh deal over the whole issue of fuel pricing in comparison to the rest of the UK. There is no reason in my mind whatsoever why we should be paying higher costs simply because we are located across the water.
“Whilst I am worried about our whole population being able to manage through this tough time, it is the rural communities and their absolute reliance on the car in order to remain economically active. It’s all very well the government encouraging people to get back to work, but if these people cannot afford the fuel to even get there, it severely defeats the purpose.
“I will continually be raising the matter in Westminster and with George Osborne directly, who in fariness did freeze the rise in fuel prices for 2012 against Labour planning but has this weekend since rejected any further possible reductions.
“I think the government need to realise that by ignoring the simple fact that the public can not afford any further rises in fuel prices, they are actually restraining our economy instead of their repeated aim of stimulating it.”