Hilary Benn: 'fuel hikes are good'
He said the high fuel prices are forcing people off the roads, which should help reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
On the BBC's 'Politics Show', he said that the prices were now a 'fact of life' and that motorists had to get used to them. He added: ' I think we're seeing people thinking more carefully about the journeys that they make, where they can do so.
'This is a resource crunch. Making the transition from a high-carbon, oil-dependent economy to a low-carbon future is absolutely essential and the countries that do so first will be in a stronger position.'
Mr Benn also defended the Government's planned road tax reforms, which he also believes will encourage people to choose less-polluting cars. He said: 'If we're going to tackle climate change, there are some hard choices and we want to encourage all of us to choose less-polluting vehicles.
'Three out of four cars sold in the country are second-hand cars, so it's important you have a change that also applies to the second-hand market.'
Mr Benn's comments have provoked an angry backlash from motoring groups and opposition parties.
Paul Watters of the AA said: 'Motorists will be bitterly upset to be told that the pain they are feeling is a good thing. People have to get from A to B, many have to drive to work, and the vast majority of trips aren't discretionary.'
Shadow treasury minister Justine Greening said: 'Hilary Benn seems out of touch with the cost-of-living pressures that families are facing.'