It's high time we had fairer fuel prices
OUR community continues to be hard hit by ever increasing fuel prices.
South Devon is one of the least affordable places to live in the UK, with low average wages and some of the highest house prices and water rates in the country.
The UK is the ninth most expensive place to buy petrol in the EU and many people have little alternative but to use their cars, especially in rural areas.
I have received many letters from concerned constituents who fear an April fuel duty increase. I am supporting the FairFuelUK campaign and argue that we need more support for our rural communities.
I welcome Prime Minister David Cameron's move to take a special interest in the proposed fuel stabiliser and have written to ask him to ensure that it does happen.
I have also written to George Osborne and the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Chris Huhne to put forward your concerns. Along with many readers, especially those who are volunteer drivers, I would like to see an increase in the mileage payment allowance which no longer covers the real cost of fuel.
In yet another blow from the European Courts this week, the EU's European Court of Justice has scrapped the insurance industry's opt out from the EU gender directive, which will prevent insurance companies from offering different products to men and women.
There is no argument about the fact that young male drivers are more likely to be the cause of road accidents than women of the same age.
Based on that data, younger women have long paid lower premiums on car insurance than men of the same age. It has been estimated that, as a result of the ruling, a 17-year-old female driver now will have paid out extra on her car insurance by her 26th birthday that could range from £4,300 to £9,300.
Male drivers, however, would only save about £3,250 over the same period as it has been estimated that the UK insurance industry would seek to raise extra capital to cover the 'uncertainty' generated by the change in policy.
The European Court of Justice based in Luxembourg is not the same as the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which was responsible for the edict on prisoners' voting rights, but it is yet another example of a European court adding to the costs for individuals as well as the economy as a whole. It is all based on a ruling by the European Court of Justice Advocate General that the gender differentiation is a violation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Yet again we will all count the cost of giving greater powers to unaccountable European judges as a result of Labour signing up to the Lisbon Treaty.
Unfortunately there will be no opportunity for Parliament to refuse to comply with this ruling and I urge all readers to write to their MEP to complain about the continuing power grab by the European Courts.
Over the past months I have received many letters from people who receive Disability Living Allowance.
There has been genuine anxiety about the proposed changes. The fact is that DLA, as evidenced by many high-profile cases in the media, was very open to fraud and this was discrediting a benefit which should be there to help to support disabled people to overcome the inequalities they face and to remain independent.
I would urge all those who receive this important benefit not to listen to scare stories as all those who genuinely need the benefit will continue to receive it when it becomes the Personal Independence Payment in 2013-14.
This delay in the implementation of the reform is to ensure that the testing regime is fair and properly takes account of all the issues raised in the consultation. No one seriously feels that the current system of self assessment is fit for purpose.
It involves a very long and complicated form, often requiring no proof of the claimed disability or the need ever to reassess whether a condition has changed.
It is small wonder that the current discredited system led to a 30 per cent increase in people claiming DLA in just eight years. We have to be honest about this and recognise that it is time to concentrate benefits on those with the greatest need.