'Motorists should see £4.6bn oil bonus'

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The Independent Online

The Government is making a killing out of rising oil prices, campaigners claimed last night.

The Government is making a killing out of rising oil prices, campaigners claimed last night.

They said it was deriving a £4.6bn bonus which could be used to help motorists. Ministers could cut fuel prices by eight pence per litre without hitting public spending, they said.

Between January 1999 and June 2000 the price of a litre of petrol rose from 62.9 pence per litre to 85 pence, making Britain's petrol the most expensive in Europe. Of that 85 pence, 48.8 pence goes to the Government in excise duty and a further 12.5 pence in VAT. In the past two years, petrol prices have risen by 26p a litre, 16p of which was through tax increases.

In Spain, a litre of petrol costs 53 pence while the price in Greece is 54 pence and in Germany 66 pence.

In the US, where there have also been recent protests over fuel prices, petrol costs just 28 pence per litre.

Economists disputed a claim by Stephen Byers, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, that services such as health and education would suffer if fuel tax was cut.

He said that public services would lose £1 bn for each two pence taken off the duty on a litre of petrol.

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