Well, what do you know.
Well, what do you know. Finally, there’s some good news on red diesel. We are free to carry on using this lower duty fuel in our boats until November 2008. It’s all the more surprising that this decision came from none other than Gordon Brown. Admittedly, he took the opportunity to sneak in an extra couple of pence per litre onto red diesel while he was at it but given the alternative, I can’t see many of us making a fuss about that.
Let’s be honest, another two seasons of red diesel at around 50p per litre is better than most of us were expecting given the rollercoaster ride of the past few months. Once the EU told us where to stick our request for an extension to the derogation, the best we could really hope for was a long transition period in which to manage the change. And that is exactly what we’ve got. Don’t forget that our derogation expired last year, so effectively we’ve won two years’ grace. That almost constitutes an extension in itself.
But before we all go and crack open the bubbly (or cheap sparkling wine) there’s still a barrel load of questions we’d like answered. Foremost among these is whether in 2008 Gordon (or whoever’s the Chancellor by then) will impose the same level of duty on marine diesel as road diesel. He is only legally obliged to impose the European minimum fuel duty, which would mean us paying around 70p per litre at the pumps or roughly the same as in France. Again, this is something that most of us would find hard to argue against. Whether he can resist the temptation to whack on the UK’s punitive road fuel duty, pushing marina pump prices up to at least £1 per litre, is another matter.
The other big question is whether commercial and leisure boat users will still be able to fill up from the same pump (be it white or red diesel) but be charged different rates of duty. This is by far the simplest, safest and least expensive way to manage the transition. The alternative would mean fuel berths having separate pumps serving dyed and non-dyed fuel, leisure boat owners having to clean their tanks of all red diesel traces, and single-pump fuel berths having to choose whether to service commercial or private users.
We’ve still got 18 months to ensure he makes the right decision and we intend to make sure our voice is heard. Given this latest piece of news, it appears he may be listening to us after all.