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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.
Mike Swann

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.
Peter Webb-Heath

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.
Dan Clarke

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.

I might, just, accept high fuel prices if I could see some improvement to motoring

John Tellick, Surbiton
I was in Belgium and France yesterday and I drive a diesel car, the price difference is even greater than with petrol. Diesel in Belgium was 54p/L and France 55-57p/L. But one has to look at the 'real' cost of motoring in both countries - car tax, VAT, and of course, road tolls in France. I drive around 15,000 private miles a year and use public transport. I might, just, accept high fuel prices if I could see some improvement to motoring in the SE, in particular, and a 21st century rail and public transport system. But, really I think you need to do a programme about taxation in the UK vis a vis Europe. Are we any worse off? It needs to cover taxes in Europe for income, social security/health, VAT, fuel/road taxes etc. etc and the services provided - pensions, hospitals/health, unemployment and other benefits, transport, schools etc. etc. To see if we really are hard done by in the UK as we all think.
John Tellick

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?
Andrew Smith

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.
Ted White
Eastleigh, Hants

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.
R Holloway

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.

Let's have a truthful and meaningful debate about fuel tax and if necessary, think of other ways of raising revenue

John Leak, Preston
However the one fact that everyone seems to fail to recognise, be it politicians, TV presenters or so called economic experts, is that a large proportion of this fuel tax is raised from the public purse anyway by way of costs incurred to the taxpayer to fund fuel for ambulances, fire engines, police cars, army vehicles, government ministers cars, civil servants/local government officers transport costs, local authority vehicles to name but a few. Would someone like to tell me what percentage of the 26 billion raised from fuel duty can be attributed directly to government expenditure (I would make an educated guess of 20%). If I am right then the proposed cut of 3p per litre by the Tories would not actually cost 525 million but only 420 million. So come on let's have a truthful and meaningful debate about fuel tax and if necessary, think of other ways of raising revenue rather than hitting the motorist over and over and over again.
John Leak

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?
East Lothian

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.
Jack Taberner

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.
Ian G Whitmore

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. Well done.

I am pleased with the government on not reducing tax on petrol and I will be disappointed with them if they do.

The whole fabric of our society must change to be less road traffic dependent

Richard Scobie, Northwich
I live in a rural area and I am a Chartered Civil Engineer (Bridge). Therefore one may expect me to want tax reduced but I can look at the long term problems. The whole fabric of our society must change to be less road traffic dependent. This can only be achieved by adjusting the economic balance as large organisations are without morals these days. Why do I have to travel to work over large distances to fewer but larger offices bases in large cities rather than local towns, thus having no option but to use my car. The Economy of Scale Theory usually means that large is better but with higher fuel costs the smaller set up may become economic again. Everyone's quality of life would be better as we could drive a few miles to work rather than 20 to 30 miles (or even get the local bus). I was disappointed in the Panorama programme as it did not provide answers to questions such as, can the UK charge duty on fuel imported via individuals filling their tanks in Calais, why can we not force the duty to be equal within the EC like France did with the Wine/Beer ratio or how much of the 77% duty is from fixed fuel tax and how much is from VAT - linked to the crude oil price rise. Solution here would satisfy the haulier's problem with unfair taxes compared to abroad. As for the farmers, their main enemy is the supermarkets not the fuel tax. Higher fuel taxes make imports more expensive and the UK consumes more than it produces.
Richard Scobie

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
Andrew Purdon
Airdrie, Scotland

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?
Brendan Pells

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. See

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!
Stuart Smith

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.
Meryl McCartney

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.
Alison Joyner

This programme is one of the most biased current affairs programme I have seen.

The stats showing that the cost of motoring are no more exspensive in Britain than anywhere else in Europe were not mentioned

Steven Kane, Glasgow
It was clearly not objective and favoured the protesters in every way. The statistics quoted on the price of fuel and motoring are disputed, but the stats showing that the cost of motoring are no more exspensive in Britain than anywhere else in Europe were not mentioned. Why was this? Also why was there no one from the environmental lobby on the programme to make the case that high fuel costs are good for the environment? Moreover why didn't the interviewer raise the environmemtal arguments with the protesters. Also the protesters have claimed that high fuel duty has cost hauliers and farmers jobs. How many jobs have been lost due to high fuel duty? Also a few thousand people on the streets is hardly what I would call huge public support? Remember that 250,000 people were on the streets of London protesting against the poll tax. Also up 1 million were on the streets in 1985 protesting against the arrival of cruise missles. This is real public support, but then again these are left wing causes and these surely cannot have public support. This is the impression the BBC and the right wing press created then. Finally even if the dispute has public support does that mean it is right and surely the BBC in hindsight will be ashamed of this programme as it clearly set out only to give the fuel protesters point of view and no one elses and thir views were not challenged. Surely serious current affairs programmes are supposed be objective if they are not as this programme was, journalism is doomed.
Steven Kane

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?
D l Davies

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.
Adrian Mctiernan

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.
Najma Afshar

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.
Les Fenney
St Helens Lancs

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".

The consequences of just a few days of restriction in supply debunk any claims that fuel is a luxury

Elwin Tennant, Chelmsford
It is clear that the days whereby fuel tax is used as bottomless revenue pit are over. The consequences of just a few days of restriction in supply debunk any claims that fuel is a luxury. While so little of this revenue is spent on providing alternatives, there is no moral justification to tax fuel any more then drinking water. It also appears that the government lied to us about the situation in the health service during the week of protest. Hospitals were apparently barely affected!
Elwin Tennant
Chelmsford, Essex

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.
S Mason

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.

It is quite right that there should be high taxes on fossil fuels

Norman Harpur, Ashburton
Greenhouse gases contribute to global warming and burning fossil fuels (petrol and diesel) produces carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. The cost of global warming to this nation, and to the world, is going to be enormous this century. There is a generally accepted view in pollution control that "the polluter pays". So it is quite right that there should be high taxes on fossil fuels. Indeed the Labour Party Conference this week passed a motion calling for higher penalties for polluters, which logically must include all those who burn petrol and diesel. The Conservative government also introduced the Fuel Tax escalator, they said, to encourage fuel economy. However they did not use the Fuel Tax revenue to research, promote and subsidise alternative, less polluting, forms of transport. Instead they used it to help them reduce income tax as an election vote winner. As a result, the public and industry were unable to reduce their fuel usage significantly and simply had to bear the extra costs. Although the present government has dropped the escalator, it still has made no real attempt to move the Fuel Tax revenue into methods of reducing the need for burning petrol and diesel. It still pursues, with the Conservative opposition, a policy of reducing income tax regardless of the dire consequences to the country. If politicians, of all parties, fail to act responsibly in this matter, this generation will have handed down to our children and grand-children a burden which will be far far worse than a few pence on the price of petrol.
Norman Harpur

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.
James Oram

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?
Ben Rickman

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.
Richard Inness

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.
Andrew Williams

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.
F McNeill

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.
Andrew Linington
Tonbridge, Kent

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 !!!
W Giles

I am amazed at the ignorance of the facts of some of your posters.

By increasing the price of diesel, all they are doing is ensuring that foreign hauliers replace British hauliers

Sue, Bedford
As a partner in an International Haulage company I am fully aware of the findings of the Select Committee on Transport and also aware that they chose to ignore all the facts supplied to them by the Haulage Associations. Simply they had already decided the result before they had their meeting. With regard to getting trucks off our roads by increasing the price of diesel, all they are doing is ensuring that foreign hauliers replace British hauliers. Do people want their goods delivered or not? Anybody would think we are enemy number one. All those people out there that think we are just whingers with no apparent reason for this should try and operate a profitable Transport company under the present conditions. Yes we are protesting, and about time too. If people in this country don't want yet another British industry destroyed then please support us. And to the people who have been very ignorant of the facts please visit the RHA site for more information. To all the people that have supported us thank you.

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.
Olatunde Adeyemo

Like many here, I'm in the silent majority of people who work - hard - in the private sector and pay my taxes.

It is a myth that the number of cars on the roads or miles driven is increasing dramatically

Mark, London
For me the protest is not just about the cavalier way in which this government, and John Major's before it, cynically raised fuel prices way above inflation on the flawed pretext that the modern private car is the harbinger of environmental disaster, but about the way in which those of us who drive and work for a living are treated generally by this administration in particular. It is a myth that the number of cars on the roads or miles driven is increasing dramatically. Reality is that leftie councils are re-engineering road layouts, reducing speed limits and introducing traffic "calming" measures (many of which have been proven not to improve road safety) to slow us down in a Big Brother attempt to force us onto public transport that is ideologically preferable to them but already overcrowded and less efficient than the private car. I work hard for a living and I am entitled to drive home at the end of the day, swiftly and economically. Until the government understands this it will not have my support, and if after the November budget statement our fuel prices are not brought into line with the Euro average I and other car drivers will be joining the blockades, together with the truckers and farmers.

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.?
Sue Steffen

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.
Mike Jay

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.

It's time for the government to stop talking and start listening

J Jones, Crowborough
My grandfather would have returned his British Empire Medal to the queen in protest at the actions and 'attitude' of the current government, after 30 years loyal service to the Mineworkers Union. I have always voted Labour in the past but even William Hague looks attractive now in comparison to Prescott, Mandelson, Brown and Blair. Their continued attempts to 'emotionally blackmail' us to their political agenda are testament to the real motives that drive them. It's time for the government to stop talking and start LISTENING. Education and Health are important issues but I have to feed my children, pay my mortgage and put petrol in my car.
J Jones

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 current Govt. Overall - I found it a poor piece of diary keeping.
Andrew Duke

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!
Graham White
Alton, Hampshire

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.

Do you honestly think that the farmers and truckers have ever been interested in the 'ordinary' motorist

Peter, Edinburgh
The greed and ignorance of people in this country never ceases to amaze me. Do you honestly think that the farmers and truckers have ever been interested in the 'ordinary' motorist, all you who support this act of blackmail have been conned. We keep on hearing that the vast majority of people in this country support this action, I've never thought this, I didn't support it, yet where is my voice being heard. Why wasn't P&O pushed about their role in all of this, they threatened to sack a driver, but we then heard no more about it. The sight of a small rabble deciding what emergency service should receive fuel, by a show of hands, frightened me, who gave them the right? Where was the democracy there? The game was given away when Tony Blair's name was mentioned directly by one of the farmers, that was what this was about, they want rid of Blair, Brown and the Labour Government, it's not about fuel, and it is being instigated by the Tories, the Tory tabloids and business. Do you not realise that if we have parity with Europe on taxes we will be paying more?

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...
P Hamrsey

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.
John Dubowski

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.
Geoff Cole
Pinner, Middlesex

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.
Jess Glover

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?

Our main problem is that we have the most road dependent economy in Europe

Mike Pollard, London
Whilst many people resent relatively high fuel costs, I think that the majority realised that OPEC had played a significant part and that the blockaders had a separate agenda to the general public. After all, the public's main response was to hoard as much fuel as possible, whatever the cost, and to resume previous spending on fuel when the crisis was over. The overall cost of motoring in this country has not increased in real terms for 25 years. Our main problem is that we have the most road dependent economy in Europe. Public transport and other alternatives to roads, have been starved of investment for years - particularly under the Thatcher governments - and it is this lack of a real alternative to cars that makes people frustrated. I refer anyone to the excellent articles in the Observer Business Section, Sunday 17th September.
Mike Pollard

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.
Janice Worth

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 ?
Geraint Copp

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!)
Graham Bassett
Denbigh, Denbighshire

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!
Peter Dodds

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