Labour’s motion to delay the Government’s proposed 3ppl fuel duty rise from January to April was defeated by 284 votes to 234 following a debate in the House of Commons last night (Monday 12).

Cathy Jamieson, Labour MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun led the debate calling upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to cancel the rise in fuel duty “at least until next April”.

She said families were feeling the squeeze, that low and middle-income families were hardest hit, that prices were rising higher than wages, small businesses were struggling and that the economy was still fragile, all of which made it exactly the wrong time to hike up fuel costs.

She urged members on both sides of the house to join the Labour call to delay the January fuel duty rise. During the debate she pointed out that fuel tax was currently 81ppl; and that petrol was 15ppl more than it was at the General Election and 5ppl more than it was in the summer, when the Government last deferred a rise.

“It is not just Labour that is calling for the increase to be postponed. FairFuelUK, backed by the RAC and the Road Haulage Assocation, among others, have consistently and determinedly campaigned for lower fuel duty…

“The Petrol Retailers’ Association has reminded us of the impact of VAT and the impact on the price of fuel if the 3ppl increase goes ahead in January.”

After much debate Conservative MP Robert Halfon said he had three concerns about the Labour motion. “First, it is a non-binding motion – it is just gesture politics. My constituents care about the price of petrol, not the politics. Secondly, the only way that we can stop the petrol tax is through the Autumn Statement on 5 December. That is how it has been done in the past few years. Yes, I am asking the Treasury for action on fuel, but what my constituents want is action on the policy – the substance. My constituents will not be looking at what happens today; they will be looking when the Chancellor makes his speech on 5 December. That is when we hope that the Chancellor will listen to British motorists.

“Thirdly, we need a long-term settlement for cheaper petrol… The motion proposes a three-month oil rush, which would lead to motorists being hammered with a 7ppl tax rise in April 2013. The only way to get the long-term settlement is to work constructively with the Government and look at reform and how we can permanently lower fuel duty.”

Ultimately David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary, HM Treasury, urged the House to reject the motion. He said: “We have recognised the impact that high pump prices are having on motorists, families and businesses. The last Government had no credible plan to deal with the debts that they created and no credible plan to support motorists, but we have listened and responded. We have cut fuel duty, we have scrapped the fuel duty escalator, we have ensured that there will be no increase in fuel duty this year, we will have kept fuel duty frozen for 21 months, we will continue to support motorists with our fair fuel stabiliser, and we have tackled tax avoidance. We have taken action not only on fuel duty, but on council tax and on income tax.

“The British people know that this is a Government who, within the considerable constraints left to us by the Labour party, will take action to protect them from rising pressures and difficulties with the cost of living. The Labour party has tabled an incredible, opportunist motion.

“I urge the House to reject it and to support the Government’s amendment, safe in the knowledge that we will do all we can to protect the British people from the rising cost of living.”