Cable confirms Government in international talks over releasing state-held oil stockpiles


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Vince Cable confirms Government is involved in international deliberations over whether to release state-held stockpiles of oil to keep fuel prices down.

Business Secretary Vince Cable today confirmed the Government has been involved in international deliberations over whether to release state-held stockpiles of oil to keep fuel prices down.

Dr Cable told the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) the coalition had to "strike a reasonable balance" between getting the budget deficit down and helping motorists and businesses.

Addressing a delegate who expressed her concern over fuel prices at the conference in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, he said: "The dilemma the Government has got is this - there's an oil price shock taking place at the moment because of what is happening in the Middle East, the problems around Iran. This is putting up prices.

"We could stop all of it but it's extremely expensive, we're trying to manage the budget down, we've got to strike a reasonable balance.

"There was a clamour in the Budget to do all kinds of stuff. We thought the priority should be to help lower and middle income earners. I hope you'll understand that a lot of the background is due to events taking place 5,000 miles away.

"The Government has a stockpile of oil for emergencies. There have been moves in the last few weeks, which are co-ordinated with the Americans and others, to release some of that stuff into the market to keep prices down. We do realise at the end of the day this is tied up with our future as a country."

Later, answering questions from journalists, Dr Cable said the Government's move last year to scrap the fuel escalator would save motorists on average 6p a litre by the summer.

"We're taking action but we can't just sign vast cheques to solve all the problems of motorists but we've done quite a lot," he said.

The Business Secretary also used the conference to announce a new campaign to improve the enforcement of business regulations.

Focus on Enforcement will ask business to tell the Government where enforcement can be improved, reduced or done differently.

Dr Cable said: "One of the problems which we're often told about is that there are lots of bodies out there who inspect you, who supervise you often in completely inconsistent and unpredictable ways.

"Some of them are perfectly reasonable and helpful, others make no distinction between firms that are genuinely trying to comply and others that are real cowboys.

"We want to look now in some detail at the way the enforcement bodies operate."

"We want you to tell us which of these enforcement agencies is behaving sensibly and which are not, how their practices can be changed. We are talking here about national bodies but also local authorities."

The first phase will cover the chemicals industry, small businesses in food manufacturing and volunteer events.

A website has been set up for businesses to provide feedback.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said he was "sceptical" about releasing oil stocks.

He said: "The international discussion about the world oil market is important but I've always been very sceptical about whether releasing stocks can make any difference to a fundamentally world price."