A PROPOSAL to lower fuel prices at rural filling stations to help cut the cost of country living has been described as ‘unworkable’ by Conservative MP Ian Liddell-Grainger.

The idea was put forward by Liberal Democrat Richard Foord soon after taking the Tiverton and Honiton seat in a by-election caused by the resignation of former Tory MP Neil Parish.

Mr Foord tabled an Early Day Motion calling on the Government cut 10p off fuel duty in rural areas where, research by the Countryside Alliance has shown, it costs £800 a year more to fill a car than in urban areas.

But his neighbour, Ian Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said the idea of a two-tier pricing structure for vehicle fuel had already been examined - and discounted.

“It’s simply unworkable,” he said. “Who is going to define what is truly a rural area and where the discount should therefore be applied? Once you start drawing a boundary it is inevitable that people on the other side of it are going to start crossing it in order to take advantage of lower prices. It would be a recipe for chaos.”

Liddell-Grainger said the closure of so many rural filling stations was a reflection of the fact that they were unable to match the discounts offered by supermarkets.

“Much as they make a weekly trip to the supermarket to do their food shopping thousands of rural families now make a habit of fuelling their cars while they are there.

“With margins so tight in this sector hundreds of country filling stations have been forced to shut, and offering a discount which benefits the customer more than the supplier is hardly going to stem the rate of closures.

“This issue must be looked at in the wider context of rural poverty in general. We have to look at ways of making rural living more affordable or there will be an enormous drift into towns and cities before long.

“But knocking a few pence off the cost of a litre of petrol isn’t of itself going to offer any improvement in the situation.”