Plans for a 5ppl fuel duty rebate for 17 rural areas have cleared a major hurdle, chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has announced.

The European Commission (EC) has given its approval and, although it still requires agreement through the Council of the European Union, the minister said he hoped the scheme could be implemented before the election in May.

He said: "This is great news for motorists in these areas and brings a duty discount a step closer. Fuel prices are falling across the country, but they are still higher in very rural areas.