Fuel Protests — 25 Oct 2000

Oliver Letwin MP, West Dorset voted in the minority (Aye).

I beg to move,

That this House notes that, despite warnings from Her Majesty's Official Opposition, the Government refused to listen to the grievances brought to them by business and commerce, most particularly by hauliers, farmers, pensioners, the disabled and by those on low incomes or living in rural areas, thereby provoking the fuel protests in September; condemns the Government's initial complacency about the protests which later turned to panic; deplores the Government's repeated increases in taxation, despite having no mandate to do so and notes that the increases in the tax on petrol and diesel have become the symbol of the Government's betrayal of their tax promises; urges the Government to address the problems their tax increases have caused, by reducing tax on hard-working families, pensioners and businesses, including an immediate reduction in road fuel duty; and laments the fact that, despite the increases in tax on the travelling public, the Government has allowed the road system to deteriorate and has failed to deliver the improvements in the transport system which it promised and which the public expected.

I am constantly available to discuss such matters either in statements or other debates . . . There are many matters that I am prepared to debate, and I commonly come to the House.--[ Official Report , 24 October 2000; Vol. 355, c. 150.]

We have no plans to increase taxation at all.

The Government must address the overburdening nature of tax on fuel.

Ben Gill, the president of the National Farmers Union told them:

We have said over and over again to the Treasury that it was only a matter of time before the farmers' patience on fuel taxes runs out--the current level is extortionate.

I regret that pressures on

time make him unable to attend.

Unfortunately, the Chancellor regrets he must decline your kind invitation.

Sadly the PM's diary commitments make it impossible for him to join you.

It has not proved possible to find a Minister to attend

It will all be getting back to normal within 24 hours.

Normal? Business losing up to £250 million a day, schools closing, shops running out of food, street cleaning suspended, funerals postponed, Portsmouth hospital running out of insulin, operations cancelled: the only things that were normal were the spin, the hype and the dissimulation. [Interruption.]

I can't understand why farmers complain. They can use red diesel at 3p a litre tax.

Though there were instances of intimidation-- [Interruption.]

Though there were instances of intimidation, police say they have recorded no official complaints . . . Relations with the police were good. Negotiations to allow through fuel for emergency services were amicable.

We had no reports of intimidation in Stanlow at the time. They have been logged subsequently. As far as we were concerned, with the exception of a couple of incidents, the protests were peaceful.

we have been stonewalled, fobbed off and passed from pillar to post.

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

"applauds the tough, long-term economic decisions taken by the Government to create a platform of stability on which to invest in education, health, transport and law and order, building a Britain where there is opportunity and security for all; recognises the difficulty that has been caused to some sectors of the economy due to the rapid increase in world oil prices over the past 18 months; welcomes the Government's determination to set its economic and fiscal policy within the context of the normal budget and democratic processes; deplores the previous Government's record of boom and bust and under-investment in the nation's vital public services; notes that the proportion of the cost of petrol accounted for by VAT and duty is lower than when this Government took office in May 1997; welcomes the Government's environmental record which has seen Britain lead the world in the fight against global warming; and welcomes the Government's 10-year plan to modernise the nation's transport system, cut congestion, deliver real choice and see a 42 per cent. real term's increase in spending."

the difficulty that has been caused to some sectors of the economy due to the rapid increase in world oil prices over the past 18 months.

calling for immediate fines on an hourly basis against individuals involved in the blockading.

The Conservative policies on transport do not progress far beyond naked opportunism.

What people are saying is that he--

suddenly produces these policies out of the blue--this was certainly true of petrol--and of course then people aren't impressed.

They say you are just making it up on the spur of the moment . . . That is a very dangerous technique to follow.

Conservatives have yet to produce a credible policy at all. The Liberal Democrats, as ever, have the greenest policies. It is their policies that are most likely to resolve the growing transport crisis.

They were informed by hauliers that the protest would start this week.

Our only objective is to stop all fuel getting out of the plant . . . If the riot police move on us tonight, what happened in France will seem like a picnic. I do not care if Stanlow blows up.

Both police and independent commentators have confirmed that the protests were largely peaceful.

However, on several occasions I made it clear that those organising the blockades should call them off and instead make their protests through the ballot box.

As a result of this government's policies, many people are trapped in rural areas, with no alternative to the "infernal" combustion engine. You call tax on fuel "indirect tax". You are wrong. When there is no alternative, such a tax becomes very direct and very painful.

I am willing to add my voice to the thousands of others protesting about the unacceptable price of fuel in this country. The general public . . . have complete solidarity with the activists because we all know that we are being bled dry in this country by indirect taxation. Is the Government trying to kill off what's left of our industry?

pay my price for petrol or walk . . . ?

Marie Antoinette took a similar view when the price of bread became unaffordable, and we all know what happened to her.

Fuel duty has been progressively increased since the November 1993 Budget to help fulfil our commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. Road fuel duties were increased in both 1995 and 1996 in line with the Government's strategy of annual increases averaging at least 5 per cent.

No plan to use the fuel escalator, insists Brown . . . The Chancellor said he had no plans to bring back the fuel duty escalator under which the cost of petrol automatically rose.

Meacher is rebuked for floating fuel tax escalator . . . Government spokesmen said ministers had no intention of bringing back the escalator.

Brown on defensive over fuel escalator . . . The Chancellor's intervention followed an unguarded remark from Michael Meacher, the environment minister, who suggested that the escalator could be brought back if world oil prices dipped suddenly.

What people need to answer is if they want to see a cut in fuel duty, 2p off a litre is £1 billion of public spending. Where are those cuts going to occur?

Cutting fuel duty by 2p would cost almost £1 billion . . . but you don't hear them talking about putting up signs outside hospitals saying the numbers of doctors and nurses will have to be cut because the Government doesn't have enough money.

What both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry were saying was that cuts in fuel duty as a result of continued protest would lead to cuts in public expenditure. Labour Back Benchers quoted that statement like parrots, and according to them schools and hospitals were all under threat--what absolute bunk.

Fuel duty has been progressively increased since the November 1993 Budget to help fulfil our commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels--

annual increases averaging at least 5 per cent.

this illustrates some optimism in the industry.

for transport this has been a positive Budget--the morale in the industry is a whole lot better off.

the most motorist-friendly in 8 years.

this is the first time drivers can take some heart from a Budget in over seven years.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:--

The House divided: Ayes 144, Noes 378.

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Party Summary

Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.

What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.

What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.

What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.

PartyMajority (No)Minority (Aye)BothTurnout
Con0 136 (+2 tell)086.3%
DUP0 1033.3%
Independent1 0033.3%
Lab336 (+2 tell) 0081.6%
LDem41 0087.2%
PC0 3075.0%
UUP0 4044.4%
Total:378 144082.2%

Rebel Voters - sorted by party

MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party. You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

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NameConstituencyPartyVote
no rebellions

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