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Pump Wars, Monday September 25 2000
Your comments on this week's programme will be posted up all week.
As several others have observed, I was disappointed at the lack of depth in the programme. Everybody has been comparing the price of fuel between the UK and France et al, but there is more to understand. Please give us a comparison of all the taxation (not just items called tax) so we can make a true comparison.
Any reasonable person must know that out trucking companies are at a severe disadvantage due to high road Tax and fuel prices. This increases prices for all other commodities. It's OK for the government to say they are listening but the self employed Truckers have been under pressure and shouting for over two years. I didn't realise until tonight how much it has effected our farmers which is tragic on top of all their other problems. The government did come across as arrogant and bossy. Get real Tony! These are the people that changed from Tory to Labour last time. I did, I'm 54 and I was laid off because of the fuel crisis, but I will back the protesters again if there is no concessions. You are voting yourselves out of office believe me. Brave it, Give the Truckers a 50% reduction in Road Tax reduce the price of diesel by 10p a litre. Give them a chance to make a living. Give the farmers a chance to recover from the problems of the last five years.
Since the fuel crisis, I have
noticed that the majority of drivers
on our motorways at speeds in
excess of 70 mph. A large
number are driving greatly in excess
of the speed limit. Some in gas-guzzling,
4 wheel drive cars or "executive"
models with over-sized engines.
These people have made a conscious
decision to consume petrol as if it was
as free as the air. Those drivers who
do make these choices
to consume far more fuel than they need
to are hypocrites if they complain
about the cost of that fuel.
I rather felt your Pump Wars programme left many questions unanswered. The government have admitted that the high UK fuel prices are paying for investment in the NHS and schools. As they say, the money has to come from somewhere - which of course it does.
Your coverage seemed to concentrate on incompetence by the Government in its handling of the petrol shortages caused by the widespread public demonstrations. You did not enquire deeply enough into the question of why the problem got so bad through high taxation and a lack of response when public and trade complaints started months ago.
Your coverage seemed to accept as true the highly doubtful assertions that health services were at risk. If that were so, why did the terminals not seek to supply hospitals, why were petrol supplies available on the A1, why were nurses able to acquire fuel for lengthy private journeys, why could cabinet ministers still drive around the country?
The fact is the health service stories were spin.
You portrayed the demonstrators as if there was some hidden secret unworthy force driving them on. You never sustained this but likewise you continually inferred as much.
Could it be that the BBC has again "bought " the entire New Labour spin on this?
This Panorama was biased in the extreme. There was constant references to the protesters as the only sector that mattered. The programme ignored the other side of the equation, I object to a small sector of the community imposing their will on the government, what right have they to decide on emergency service preferences. They are not elected and they are certainly not hard done by.
It's no good talking about 2p or 10p a litre reduction - we want parity with Europe. I would prefer direct taxation as the car plays a big part in my family's life through necessity - always middle income bracket that gets hit.
Feel Bill Morris should consider his position - sure he would not have been so pro government if he had got a slice of the action but it was the self employed who took action. Disappointed action not kept up to weekend with peaceful rallies in major towns & cities to enable 'Joe Public' to air there views/show their support.
Over recent days it has clearly been demonstrated to everyone just how our economy and country is dependent upon fuel. When only a handful of demonstrators can bring the country almost to a standstill in less than 7 days what other proof is needed to show that everyone relies on fuel in order to enjoy the essentials of every day life. What is not clear however is the double-talk bluff and double bluff spouted by MP's about the necessity of fuel duty. At best they are being economic with the truth, at worst they are being down right untruthful. Having listened to all parties, I am still not clear what the reasons are for such high taxes on fuel. It would appear to be anything from a Green Tax for environmental problems caused by exhaust emissions, a Transport Tax to development and improve public transport, a Health Tax for the hospitals, nurses & doctors, an Education Tax for schools & teachers, to a Stealth Tax even to drive the average motorist off the road. How many times can you spend £26 billion? The arguments put forward by politicians initially seemed plausible, as no one can argue that the £26 billion raised from fuel duty is not an insignificant amount.
It is clear from the comments on this site that the programme appealed enormously to those in favour of the protestors. This in itself proves that the programme was lacking balance and objectivity. The producers should have made it very clear at the beginning of the broadcast that this was not intended as an impartial view of the dispute. How could it be when the environmental issues were ignored? I hope the BBC are planning a follow-up to engage with the other sides of the argument. Or are the BBC too scared to incur the wrath of the (self-centred) majority?
Congratulations on an excellent presentation and overview of the petrol war. However the government and most of the media keep referring to 'the protesters', meaning the people who actually blockaded the Oil Refineries. According to the Radio and TV opinion polls during the blockade, over 90% of those who voted were in agreement with 'the protesters'. Can we show a degree of solidarity here and make it crystal clear to government that 'the protesters' are in fact over 90% of the population of Great Britain.
I fully support the protesters. I believe taxes and duties are too high in general. I am angry to discover that my union (T&G) was instrumental in the break-up of the blockade and helps to verify my opinion that unions only exist to look after themselves in the name of the working man (in this case to be in favour with the Government). I would like to see a programme which spells out exactly where the Governments revenue goes to see if it is justified - I bet schools and hospitals are a long way down the list. As Tony says this is "Rip Off Britain" and the Government are as guilty as any company. I normally sit back and put up with things like many people but now I am incensed and frustrated. I would like to support the movement as would my colleagues but obviously this will not come through the unions. I voted for this government hoping to change what the Conservatives had done to the people of this country, not a continuation.
I hope you make a follow up programme.
Welcome back Panorama. An excellent programme that needed another 30 minutes. Some of the questioning of Ministers could have been a little more aggressive though.
I am pleased with the government on not reducing tax on petrol and I will be disappointed with them if they do.
John Prescott emphasised the fuel duty to farmers was less than that of road fuel duty, he is failing or ignoring to see the point that most farmers have to use white diesel in trucks, landrovers, farm cars etc to conduct their daily business just as the hauliers have to. I know of remote farms where it is now costing £20 per week just for fuel to take the children to the farm road end to meet the school bus, this is the sort of costs that rural Scotland can't afford
One reason for justifying high taxes on road fuels is the environmental argument i.e.. that higher prices will encourage road users to use less fuel, and thus reduce CO2 emissions. Why does the government not employ the same argument with regard to domestic heating? Where was the environmental justification on cutting VAT on domestic fuel?
I am an environmentalist, you would possibly think that I would support the government in this. However I do not.
It all comes down to sticks and carrots, the government is handing out the stick as in high tax fuel, but offering no carrots, there is no alternative, they are only doing half the job.
People like to see choice and competition, what is the choice the lorry drivers have? To use diesel or to go bust? Why do the government offer no alternate fuel sources to truck drivers like bio-diesel, which would give an extra produce for the farmers to sell, as well as a lower emission alternative for the truckers.
OPEC can then increase oil prices and find that the environmental alternative cheaper, therefore they would have competition, thus keeping oil prices stable. Low sulphur diesel is not the environmental alternative the government makes out, as it still relies on oil, therefore not sustainable. Also it is subject to the same oil monopoly as regular diesel.
Just like to say that I fully support the protest on fuel tax by the hauliers and farmers etc. They have been a voice for the people of this country. The tax on fuel at the pump must be reduced, and the government must really listen! Tony Blair has shown arrogance beyond belief. All of us that choose to remain living in this country must wake up and make a stand to support future action if tax on petrol at the pump is not cut. This has pushed home the fact that this is RIP-OFF BRITAIN.
As a life long trade union supporter and member
I was glad to see the programme did touch on Bill Morris' intervention
into the issue. I feel this intervention has done as much harm for the trade union movement
as some of the trade union legislation of recent years.
It is obvious that Bill Morris' comments were not for the benefit of his members but indeed to gain some pre-arranged deal for his union.
Traditionally the trade union movement have been supporters of the labour government, but it is a sad day when they become their police men!
I valued the programme and do have sympathy with the farmers and road hauliers, but wish to record that I do not support the method of protesting. I think it creates a dangerous precedent. I suspect there are a lot of other people who are shocked and frightened by the method of protest.
Supporting points made by Charles Baily and others: What about the environmental concerns that should have been raised by the issue of fuel taxes, that seem to have been ignored in the media and by the government? Wouldn't the 'crisis' have been the ideal opportunity to justify higher fuel taxes - contributing towards better investment in public transport to enable reduced private car use - in the longer term interests of a safer place to live? I'm disappointed Panorama didn't touch on this aspect of the issue.
This programme is one of the most biased current affairs programme I have seen.
After watching tonight's programme a question has arisen in my mind and I'm sure I'm not alone. Does BILL MORRIS of the TGWU represent ordinary people, or is he Tony Blair's poodle?
I feel this petrol blockade is a symptom of the resentment at the way those who by their own admission, see themselves as "In Power" - and the way that they pursue their own agendas, while calculatedly ignoring the people whom they mistakenly think they have power over.
The idea of taxing people, ordinary people, about 75% for ANYTHING, let alone the fuel which is used to bring us both our food items, and our electrical and other goods, is deeply immoral, and should be done away with.
Only the rich can afford this without strain, and a large portion of us live under recognised poverty, and yet anyone who has a car has to pay a crippling tax.
The government should tax the higher paid, and so pass on the burden to those more able to shoulder it. But it seems as if when a man or woman becomes well off, they immediately seek to become even more so, and are quite willing to leave the poor to fend for themselves.
The fuel price crisis is but one symptom of our disgust at our lousy government, and although it is regrettable, it may be only one way to bring this disgust to the notice of our politicians, for little else works, although they think we can't do much because we can't manage without it. It encourages illegal smuggling of cheap petrol, and we should be ashamed of our shoddy government, which should reduce the cost to about the same as V.A.T, and why do we have the petrol tax anyway - we had enough in the North Sea, so why pay so much tax on top of it.
An interesting programme and a chance to reflect on recent events.
There's no doubt that the Government (via Alan Milburn et al.) exaggerated the proposed impact of the fuel shortage in relation to the NHS and other essential services.
It is the fact that governments have had in place for years a rolling contingency plan to enable essential/emergency services personnel to readily gain access to petrol/fuel.
About 500 designated petrol stations nation-wide are compelled to keep a (high) minimum reserve of petrol at forecourts at all times to cater for just these types of situation. If that minimum reserve level is reached, the public is automatically told that the forecourt is awaiting supplies.
Then there are the likely undisclosed military and other strategic fuel reserve sites that can be deployed as a secondary back-up if the designated retail sites do run short during a protracted lack of supply.
I did not see any coverage about these aspects of government contingency planning widely reported. Alan Milburn very much painted a picture that, as soon as the public found it difficult to obtain petrol, so too would most emergency service personnel; a distortion of the actuality.
I am so pleased that the British public finally stood up for what they believed in and said enough is enough. The government blames rising fuel prices on OPEC's decision to increase prices. Does it really think that the British public are that dumb? Considering, £8 from every £10 fuel is tax in this country, does a few pence increase in OPEC's prices really make a difference? I don't think so.
I hope Panorama will have a programme about opposition to the fuel protest as the so called debate last week was totally biased and was the worst programme I have ever watched for being so one sided.
I was very disappointed with the programme. Where was the investigative journalism? You failed to find out why the P&O tankers did not work. What is the connection between P&O, Lord Sterling and the Conservative Party. The programme consisted of a series of soft interviews with those involved. Nobody was challenged. It became a romantic fiction of the events e.g. "instead the people manned the barricades"; who were these people? A few people, the relatives of those protesting, lorry and taxi drivers for their own selfish interest protested. The real story was why the media lazily produce these fictions, which are not challenged and then become the "truth".
It is no coincidence that all of the people who thought the programme was fair support the protests. The rest of us were dismayed that the real issues were never addressed.
One thing is certain : the correspondence gives the lie to the protestors' continued insistence that they have 95% support for their actions.
And anyway how can anyone say they support the protests without knowing what it's specific aims are? Even if one accepts the Tories' contention that cuts of 3p per litre could be absorbed, the protestors, without being specific, have said they would not be satisfied with this. It follows, therefore, that either other taxes would need to be increased to make up the lost tax revenue or public expenditure programmes would need to be cut. As no one wants to pay more tax will the protestors and their supporters please tell us what area of public spending will be cut. And don't say the Dome and asylum seekers because the amount that could be saved by cuts in these very easy targets would be a drop in the ocean compared to the likely fall in revenue. If the protestors think they can assume the right to determine taxation policy in this country they MUST be prepared to say how they will deal with the consequences of their action.
I am appalled at the apparent lack of concern, in either the Panorama programme itself or in the comments you have published, about the disaster that this world is facing in 50 to 100 years - namely global warming.
Yes farmers do pay less for their fuel that is used on the farm. But the point is that everything that goes onto or leaves their farms is transported by road, hence putting up costs and reducing revenues. Fuel taxes increase the cost of everything in this country and are therefore inflationary. The govt. cannot justify 75p in the £, we need to be on a level playing field with Europe. This country must grow up and realise that the only fair form of taxation is to increase income tax rather than all these hidden taxes. Therefore providing money for NHS etc but also helping business.
Having relied on unions to get the
fuel moving, they're now proposing
to oblige oil companies to keep the
nation supplied. Won't that oblige
oil companies to employ
strike-breakers in the event of a
tanker drivers' strike?
Secondly, won't decreasing the fuel
price mean more cars on the road -
and so more traffic jams for the
hauliers to contend with?
I feel particularly offended when I hear government ministers bleating away that there is "Little room to manoeuvre" on fuel duty. Are we not discussing a duty/vat figure of over 70% on road fuel? Little room indeed.
I am very worried by the way the government seemed to be willing to allow the NHS to fall apart to put pressure on to end the fuel protests. One would have assumed that there would have been emergency plans and fuel stocks to keep the NHS running in a crisis backed by prompt government action. Instead they allowed lives to be endangered to get themselves out of a political problem. This doesn't reflect well on the present state of British democracy.
I think the media are trying to turn the voters against the PM. The petrol protest was conducted by a privileged few against a well intentioned government and I and my wife utterly deplore such action.
I thought this programme was appalling - a shallow, superficial 'cut and paste' job that lacked any penetrating analysis of the issues. The programme told us nothing new about the petrol crisis and failed to provide any decent political analysis or in-depth understanding of the protestors. It also continued to peddle as accepted fact the idea that this was a sort of popular mass uprising, rather than a small group of people motivated by self-interest. Very disappointing and well short of what one would expect as Panorama's standards.
What?? I could only laugh at Glyn Wild's comment "...that the
cost of motoring in the last 25 years in this country has not risen in
real terms, taking in account inflation."
Surely the cost of motoring has risen faster than inflation in the last 3 years (56p-81p per litre) let alone the last 25 !!!
I am amazed at the ignorance of the facts of some of your posters.
Although I acknowledge and support the governments environmental objectives of reduction in consumption of fossil fuels, there are alternative more popular methods of working to this goal. Claims that reduction in fuel tax can only be accommodated with corresponding reductions in the budgets of health and education show the fallacy of the popularity of indirect taxation. Surely the greater part of the fuel tax should be used to directly fund the expected improvements in public transport as a viable and attractive alternative.
In my view, the government should realise the depth of public opinion concerning taxation on fuel and should as a token reduce it by up to 5%, This may not have such a great effect on the final fuel cost to the consumer as fuel costs have of recent risen and suppliers wish to increase their margins, but at least the government will have demonstrated an intelligent flexibility and concern for opinions of those it governs.
Like many here, I'm in the silent majority of people who work - hard - in the private sector and pay my taxes.
The Government still haven't got the point - Rip off Britain is the key.
How much does it cost the government to supply fuel to all government agencies, i.e. police, ambulances, school buses, etc.?
I believe the comments that have been given in the many discussion groups on this subject recently have shown quite clearly that the large majority who supposedly supported the protest was a myth. I would guess most people questioned by the opinion poll were either stuck in a jam desperate to fill up with fuel or standing on a wet bus stop having just missed their bus.
Rather than simply thinking of one's own pocket we should ask ourselves why we are all forced to spend a quite considerable amount of our hard earned cash each week on simply getting to and from work?
Centralisation, inner city degeneration, spiralling house prices and the demise of the rural economy have made us slaves to the car and totally reliant on transporting our basic resources hundreds of miles up and down the country. It is ridiculous to think that we transport basic commodities such as milk, half way across the country to be packaged and then transport much of it back to the area where it was produced to be stacked on supermarket shelves for sale locally.
Rather than calling for a reduction in fuel tax which can only hurt public services, we should be pressuring the Government to do more to provide a quality, cost effective, reliable and truly integrated public transport system. Present Government funding in this area appears to be going in to the pockets of directors instead of providing real improvements.
With regards to the Governments stance on the crisis I think this shows what a strong Government we presently have and we should not throw this away in favour of a Tory Government that is not yet capable of running the country again. Labour said at the last general election that they would make changes and improvements but that it would take time and would not be easy.
Panorama appear to have presented a very balanced view of the events of the fuel protests - Thank You! I was particularly saddened by the role of the TGWU and its obvious incestuous relationship with the current government. It seems to have lost touch completely with the 'working man', much like the government itself. The time has come to say no more to the huge weight of hidden indirect taxation cynically imposed by the Labour government on the British people. This has become nothing more than the imposition of poverty by the political elite.
The programme screened this evening was
billed as "the truth behind what
happened" during the fuel protest.
I found it to be an account of
events rather than an in depth
examination of the cause. I felt
more could have been done to
highlight the fact that oil companies
were and still are "subsidising" the
fuel price we pay at the pump.
No examination of the cost build
up was made or explained. No
facts on why the fuel price was
so high and no attempt were
made to speak with oil companies
- if it was I must have missed it.
Surely the real reason was the
fact the 40% of oil production is
held by a cartel - something we
strive to eradicate from normal
business. Furthermore there is
a genuine shortage of product
in the UK - we are now a net
importer of fuel. The programme
was biased against the Govt. It
made no mention of the fact that
under the previous administration
billions of £ were raised as a result
of tax revenues derived from
the sale of North Sea Oil.
The press should have used this
during and post the demonstration
to give a balanced view of the
Overall - I found it a poor piece of diary keeping.
I thought the programme was excellent - very balanced. I can only say that I am in total agreement with the protest. I am only 21 years old, born 1979, so I can't remember the last Labour government. It is only now that I get a full appreciation as to why it is that they have not managed 2 terms in office before now!
I hold no brief for the Government, but your programme could easily have been written by Tory Central Office.
Its use of monochrome, slow motion and creepy music was the stuff of the propagandist. Phrases like 'Tax Payers Revolt' and the assertion that the NHS red alert was just a dirty trick, confirmed its lack of balance.
Panorama seems to have been taken over by teenage 'media studies' students on their first assignment. Older, wiser, heads in the BBC must stop the slide into tabloidism before it is too late.
The reason that the police seemed supportive of this protest was, obviously, that they are also sick of feeling ill each time they visit the petrol station and spend £50 - just like the rest of us...
Will all the people who wrote in this forum against the high fuel prices, please give us a valid argument for cutting tax and put forward alternatives. Just putting my name is so and so and I support the protest is just showing your ignorance up. Oh and the person who said we should not be concerned with environment issues because no one else is, is way out of order and should explain their remark to their children and grandchildren.
One thing that has distinguished this government from its predecessors is that they do actually seem to listen but only to the vociferous pressure groups. They do not seem to even seek opinions from the generally silent majority. So we now have government by pressure group.
However once in a while it seems that the silent majority are not so silent and the government response is to say they are not giving into blackmail. Democracy indeed.
Last night's Panorama showed the Unions for what they are now - they simply do the labour government's bidding. What a very sad end to a once noble organisation.
Flawed, biased programme - tunnel vision rather than panorama. 1:One single indication of coercion by the oil companies. 2:Unquestioning labelling of Stanlow 'supporters' as 'ordinary people' when they were clearly politically motivated rent-a-mob brought there by mobile phone calls. 3:Naive assumption that blockade of Blair's car in Hull was by hauliers/farmers - actually done by Tory activists organisation. 4:Unquestioning repetition of Stanlow leader's story that original blockade was 'spur of the moment' - clearly a lie. 5:Similar lie about spread of protest 'like a bush fire' - rubbish, this was careful planning. 6:For proof witness the end of the protest - perfectly timed to avoid defeat and ending with 60 day threat linked to budget statement (You really believe the Hauliers/farmers thought of that? - Tories again). 7:No analysis of European/UK haulage costs situation. With tolls and local taxes in Europe, overall costs are similar. How could you fail to make this point? 8:Naive lack of investigation of the role of internet/mobile phone.9: Naive lack of investigation of pre-planning with tanker drivers inside refinery, whose line "intimidation" which was utterly unsupported was a pre-planned lie.
Shoddy, wide-eyed journalism. Shame on you. Try investigating the truth.
Panorama stated several times that the blockaders had widespread public support. I don't think this is true. The type of questions put to the public by the media were designed to elicit a negative response to fuel taxes, e.g., do you think it's right that we should have the most expensive fuel in Europe?
We agreed with your portrayal of the public mood and opinion. It is insulting to hear Tony Blair and John Prescott talking of the high price of oil when 3/4ths of the cost at the pump is because of the high tax rate.
I would just like to ask those in favour of the blockades, if they support a reduction in the Tory introduced rise in fuel Duty. Do they also support the reduction in Education and health Spending that the obvious cut in funding to the treasury will cause. And when they say they want parity with European tax laws will they also accept a 5p rise in income tax, VAT on Children's clothes and Toll roads as they have in Europe. The Dome, the Fuel Price escalator which gave us this high tax on fuel, the cut of the link between pensions and earnings are all Tory party policies. The farmers pay NO fuel duty on their Red Diesel and are there for political reasons only. The Tories have offered a 3p in the litre tax cut, yet Brynle Williams thinks 2 or 3p is derisory. Considering the man pays no tax on his red diesel what is his agenda ?
All the time the politicians say they won't give in to the loud mouthed minority, the public will feel the Government are not listening because they are missing the point.
Everybody I know backs the protestors and they feel that the protestors are giving us all a voice that should be heard in Westminster.
I can understand the statement that we cannot decide taxation policy during the year, but if the government have got it so wrong, (and they have or we wouldn't have upstanding citizens, backed by the vast majority of the nation, protesting), why on earth should we stick with a bad decision for another six months???
Why could we not try this alternative....Instead of the Government levying a percentile tax on fuel, put a fixed sum per gallon/litre at the pump?
If he added a fixed rate, then oil price fluctuations would only affect us all by less than a quarter of the present amount, and the Chancellor would then be unaffected by falling oil prices, thereby protecting his revenue.
(If they adopt my recommendation, just ask them to put on a penny per gallon for my commission!)
Does Tony B from High Wycombe actually know how many farmers are threatened with bankruptcy?
His views on why farmers were protesting are very uneducated, ill-informed and arrogant!
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