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The BBC's Political Correspondent, John Andrew
"The government is under pressure to act"
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Petrol Retailers Association, Ray Holloway
"It is the supermarkets that lead the way on pump prices"
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Saturday, 23 December, 2000, 09:55 GMT
Minister to demand fuel price cuts
fuel queue
Motorists queueing for fuel during September's crisis
The government is to call upon oil companies to drop the price of petrol and diesel.

Oil companies have reportedly tripled their profits since fuel blockades brought the country to a standstill in September.

The government has been criticised over the share of the price of fuel that goes to the Treasury.

Energy Minister Helen Liddell will use her next meeting with fuel bosses to call for a cut in pump prices.

It's time [consumers] reaped the benefits of the reduction of recent months

Helen Liddell
Oil prices - which have been as high as $35 a barrel in recent months - dropped to a four-month low of less than $29 a barrel at the beginning of December.

The minister said in an interview with The Times newspaper: "Consumers have taken a hit for higher oil prices earlier this year and it's time they reaped the benefits of the reduction of recent months.

"I will be making this point to the oil companies when I see them."

A spokeswoman for the Trade and Industry Department has confirmed that pump prices will be on the agenda at Ms Liddell's meeting with industry leaders.

Edmund King, of the RAC Foundation, accused the oil companies of acting like "modern-day Scrooges".

They could have given motorists a bit of a Christmas bonus this year

Edmund King
RAC Foundation

"When the world price goes up, many of the oil companies act with indecent haste in passing on the prices to the retailers and then the consumers - even though they have got stocks.

"But when the world price goes down, it seems to be remarkably slowly that any of the benefits are passed on."

The oil companies can no longer blame the government for high pump prices as the excise duty has remained static, he added.

"They could have given motorists a bit of a Christmas bonus this year."

Earlier this month the supermarket chains Sainsbury's, Tesco and Asda announced they were cutting the cost of their petrol and diesel in response to the fall in oil prices.

But Jonathan Akerman of the Petrol Retailers Association said that while oil companies' profit margins have risen from 2.7 to 7.75 pence per litre, those of petrol retailers have remained at around two pence per litre.

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See also:

06 Dec 00 | Business
Supermarkets cut petrol prices
05 Dec 00 | Business
Oil touches four-month low
31 Aug 00 | Business
Oil markets explained
07 Sep 00 | Business
Q&A: Petrol price rises
28 Jul 00 | Business
Supermarkets fuel pump price war
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