§ The Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. John Smith)
As has already been announced, a two-tier pricing system for petrol involving the use of coupons is being considered.
§ Mr. Hicks
Cannot the Government show more urgency? Is not the Minister aware that in rural areas such as Cornwall public transport is often nonexistent and thus ownership of a motor car is necessary for essential journeys such as getting to work? Is he not also aware that in country districts the average level of earnings is below the national average and that there are a large number of people living on retirement income and other forms of fixed income? Cannot the Government help these people?
§ Mr. Smith
Everybody in the community has to suffer to some extent from the unavoidable increases in the price of petrol. However, we understand and appreciate the problems of people who live in rural areas. But the problem is not confined to those who live in rural areas. There are shift workers living in town, for example, who have similar problems. To look into the matter carefully we must assess how the scheme would work and what its impact would be. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are looking carefully and urgently at the matter. In that context it is not fair to accuse us of showing a lack of urgency.
§ Mr. Nicholas Edwards
Is the Minister aware that, in addition to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks), there is particular concern among the disabled in these areas, particularly where there is no form of public transport? The disabled simply cannot cut down on their mileage and they are facing very grave hardship.
§ Mr. Smith
We will bear all these points in mind. There is a difficulty about starting to make exceptions from a simple scheme. Once an exception is made for one category it leads to an argument about an exception for another category. I take the point about the disabled. We may be able to assist them 996 in other ways than by reducing the price of petrol.