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Fuel duty may be frozen, hints George Osborne

The government may scrap the rise in fuel duty planned for next month, it has hinted.

Chancellor George Osborne told the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show that he was "looking very carefully" at freezing the duty in Wednesday's Budget.

He said he understood the pressure motorists were under from record-high petrol prices.

Mr Osborne also said the Budget would contain measures to help tackle record-high youth unemployment.

A freeze on fuel duty has been widely anticipated.

The price of petrol has risen sharply in recent weeks to more than £1.30 a litre on average.

The is largely due to increases in the price of oil due to concerns about supply because of unrest in the Middle East and Libya.

Most observers say they expect the price of both petrol and diesel to continue rising, and motoring organisations such as the RAC have called on the government to scrap the planned 1p per litre rise in duty due to take effect in April.

Others said Mr Osborne should look beyond the cost of fuel.

"The chancellor should tackle the impact of rising fuel prices by focusing on the root of the problem - the UK's economic addiction to oil," said Simon Bullock at Friends of the Earth.

"Urgent measures are needed to make public transport cheaper and more convenient, encourage greener motoring and reduce our dependency on car travel."
Youth unemployment

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls, also speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, reiterated his call for the government to reverse the VAT increase on petrol.

He said it was "nonsense" to argue that the European Union would not permit such a reverse.

The government increased the VAT rate in January from 17.5% to 20%.

Mr Osborne also said he would make available additional help for teenagers to gain access to apprenticeships and "high quality vocational education".

The unemployment rate for 18-24 year olds is currently at a record high of 18.3%.

BBC News

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