Hayes’ inquiry into fuel prices

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NEWLY appointed energy minister John Hayes has promised an investigation into oil prices during a House of Commons debate on the soaring cost of petrol.

The South Holland and the Deepings MP has asked the Financial Services Authority to look at oil prices as part of its inquiry into rate fixing by banks.

Mr Hayes is also concerned about so-called “fuel deserts” created by the decline of small, independent petrol stations in rural areas like Lincolnshire.

Some MPs demanded action to cut fuel prices and wanted to know why significant drops in the price of crude oil are not passed on to the filling station forecourts.

Mr Hayes said: “My department believes that changes in the price of crude are indeed passed on to the pumps, although, as is clear from the data, there is a considerable time lag.”

He revealed the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is also investigating the way the petrol retail market works and whether reductions in the price of crude oil are reflected at the petrol pumps.

Mr Hayes said the OFT is looking at the decline in the number of small, independent petrol stations.

He said: “I know from my own experience that rural communities can be disadvantaged when the number of petrol retailers falls and journeys to obtain petrol and diesel become longer.”

The OFT inquiry will look at whether the practices of supermarkets make it more difficult for the small, independents to compete – and whether there is a lack of competition in some remote communities in the UK.

Mr Hayes told the House of Commons that energy is vital for growth, as fuel provides power for our economy, but the issue is also about the consumer and “social justice”.

Speaking to the Spalding Guardian, Mr Hayes said it appears supermarkets are increasingly squeezing out the smaller, independent retailer.

He said: “I think that’s going to lead to the control of the price of fuel being in fewer hands and the provision of fuel – where you can get it from – being more limited.”