George Osborne to freeze fuel duty until 2015

George Osborne today pledged to freeze fuel duty until the end of the parliament, provided he can gain agreement from his coalition partners.

“Provided we can find the savings to pay for it, I want to freeze fuel duty for the rest of this Parliament,” Osborne told his party conference in Manchester.

“Conservatives don’t just talk about being on the side of hard-working people. We show it day in day out in the policies we deliver.”

Osborne’s announcement follows a pledge last week by Labour to freeze domestic fuel prices. The chancellor today dismissed this, saying that people’s overall living standards would be wrecked by Labour’s economic policies.

Fuel duty

“More borrowing and more debt remains their economic policy,” he said, adding that “You ask the citizens of Greece what happens to their living standards when the economy falls.”

The chancellor also pledged to end Britain’s “something for nothing culture” as he unveiled plans to force the long term unemployed to take on unpaid work.

Under his plans, people out of work for over three years or more will be forced to take on community work, visit job centres every day, undergo mandatory training and therapy sessions, or face losing their benefits.

“No one will be ignored or left without help. But no one will get something for nothing,” Osborne said.

“For the first time, all long-term unemployed people who are capable of work will be required to do something in return for their benefits to help them find work.”

Osborne said the country was no longer willing to tolerate people living a life on benefits.

“We are creating a welfare system that works for those who need it but it is also fair on those who pay for it. Those watching this programme who are going out to work and paying their taxes,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“As a society we [can’t] say we’re going to tolerate the fact that there are going to be many workless people in our society who we never expect to get into work… and I think that’s a tragedy for our country and a tragedy for those individuals.”

Under Osborne’s plans, those who have failed to find work after two years on the government’s work programme will have to take part in another scheme called Help to Work.

In order to keep their jobseeker’s allowance, they will either have to take on community work such as picking up litter, visit job centres daily, or take part in compulsory training and therapy for things like literacy or drink and drugs problems.

Labour said the announcement was a sign the government’s policies had failed.

“It has taken three wasted years of rising long-term unemployment and a failed Work Programme to come up with this new scheme,” shadow chief secretary to the treasury Rachel Reeves said.

“But this policy is not as ambitious as Labour’s compulsory jobs guarantee, which would ensure there is a paid job for every young person out of work for over 12 months and every adult unemployed for more than two years.”

The opening of the Conservative party conference was greeted by a mass protest in Manchester yesterday. Fifty-thousand protestors marched through the city against government cuts and reforms to the NHS.