The Government’s application to extend its fuel duty rebate scheme has been delayed and will not be submitted until next year, the minister responsible has admitted to the House of Commons.

On October 18 the chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander announced that the Government had identified 10 rural towns that met strict criteria and that it was applying to the EC for permission to extend the rebate scheme to these locations.

However, when Margaret Ritchie, the MP for South Down in Northern Ireland, asked Alexander for a progress report on November 5, he responded: “We have completed a call for evidence on that subject and have put forward an initial list of locations that meet the strict criteria that are required to make a successful application at the European level.

“Further work is needed to ensure that we have all the information that is necessary to submit the application. That will be the subject of a supplementary piece of work and we will submit the application early in the new year.”

The list of locations, seven in Scotland the three in England was criticised for lacking any remote locations in Northern Ireland and Wales, and also for omitting additional locations in the Scottish Highlands and England.

The current rural fuel scheme came into effect in March 2012 and allows retailers of road fuel in the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the Northern Isles, the Islands of the Clyde and the Isles of Scilly to register with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to claim back 5ppl relief on unleaded petrol and diesel for retail sale within the eligible areas.