A war of words broke out last month between the government and RMIP chairman Brian Madderson, as Transport Secretary Justine Greening revealed an ultimatum to the oil industry on retail fuel prices through a national newspaper.

She told The Sun newspaper that oil companies would be given "one last chance" to pass on price cuts to motorists or else they would face government action.

The report said Ms Greening’s department would also be devising a new price register so consumers could go online to find the cheapest petrol and diesel, and see who was ripping them off.

Madderson was incensed and accused the government of making political soundbites in order to divert attention from its refusal to cancel the proposed fuel duty rise in August.

He was also appalled at the manner in which the message was relayed, since he was "always available" to meet up with the government.

Madderson said: "It is appalling that the government has failed to engage with the fuel retailing industry before issuing misleading information for short-term political expediency.

"The government is clearly irritated by the continuing and justified media and public criticism of its unflinching stance on the planned fuel duty increase this summer." The news came shortly after a Parliamentary debate led by Harlow MP Robert Halfon, who is campaigning against high fuel prices which are "literally forcing people off the road". He is calling for pressure on oil companies to cut prices quickly at the pumps; a tough investigation by the OFT and urgent action on taxes.

l See News Extra, page 10.