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EDITIONS
Thursday, 9 November, 2000, 08:39 GMT
Brown's gifts fail to placate protesters
Fuel protesters and pensioners are not satisfied
Pensioners will find out more details of the financial package on offer from the Chancellor Gordon Brown, but fuel protesters do not appear satisfied.

The 4.8bn mini-budget revealed by Mr Brown on Wednesday contained measures to boost pensions and freeze fuel duty until 2002.

But fuel protesters have criticised Mr Brown for failing to provide a "substantial" cut in fuel tax, maintaining that a planned mass protest rally of Parliament on 14 November would go ahead.

Pensions measures
5 a week rise for single pensioners
8 a week rise for couples
Winter fuel allowance up from 150 to 200
MIG rises to 92 a week by 2001
MIG rises to 100 a week by 2003
Pensioners, who are to receive a 5 rise in the basic state pension from next year, also pledged to continue their own fight for a restoration of the link between the basic state pension and earnings.

Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling is due to tell the Commons on Thursday how the government hopes to extend help to poor and middle-income pensioners using the tax and benefits system.

The measures will come on top of the pension rise and the 50 increase in the winter fuel allowance also announced.

'Not enough'

Other ministers are expected to spell out how the budget measures such as the freeze on fuel duty and a 3p per litre cut in the price of "green" petrol will help motorists.

But chairman of the People's Fuel Lobby, David Handley, said the measures to help motorists had failed to meet their demands.

He said: "Since the announcement we have been inundated by phone calls from around the country saying it's not enough."

The chancellor has argued that a significant cut in fuel duty would affect interest rates and have a detrimental effect on the economy.

Fuel measures
Fuel duty frozen to 2002
2p-a-litre cut in excise duties on low-sulphur petrol next spring
Road tax cut for cars with engines under 1500cc
Display disc to be placed on all foreign lorries using British roads
Vehicle excise duty rate for lorries cut
Following his pre-Budget package, economists are now predicting interests rates will remain the same when the Bank of England committee makes its announcement on rates on Thursday.

Seen as laying out the battleground for the next election, Mr Brown's statement included changes to excise duties equivalent to a 4p-a-litre cut in fuel duty for motorists - or 8p per litre off diesel for hauliers.

Mr Brown said the measures allowed the government to meet its environmental obligations, as well as addressing motorists' concerns.

The chancellor said that in total, his changes on fuel and excise duty for cars and lorries would cost 1bn.

Sweetener for pensioners

As had been anticipated, pensioners emerged key winners from Mr Brown's statement.

As well as the rises in the state pension, he announced that the minimum income guarantee would rise to 100 a week for single pensioners and to 154 for couples in 2003.
The government wants to appease the UK's 11m pensioners

But Jack Jones, 87-year-old president of the National Pensioners Convention, said he would seek further talks to discuss the restoration of the link with earnings to avoid pensioners being "robbed" again.

Although he welcomed the 5 and 8 increases, he said: "We are not satisfied with this idea of tax credits - it's a mystery to us, we will have to go through it with the Chancellor.

"In fairness to the Government they have at least moved away from 75p and we want to keep them away from that."

He added: "We need to end the reliance on means-tested benefits."

In addition, Mr Brown announced a 200m boost for school building repairs, and tax breaks for developers of brownfield sites to help regenerate disadvantaged communities.

Mr Brown opened his statement by telling MPs the present healthy state of the economy gave the country an opportunity it could either "seize or squander".

But shadow chancellor Michael Portillo said Mr Brown's statement was "all about quick fixes" and was the statement of a minister in "full retreat".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Chancellor Gordon Brown
"We have been fair"
The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"Most Labour MPs feel the Chancellor has done enough"
Michael Portillo, Shadow Chancellor
"We still have the most expensive fuel in Europe"
Matthew Taylor, Lib Dem MP
"It is a partial victory"

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See also:

09 Nov 00 | UK Politics
06 Nov 00 | Business
10 Oct 00 | Business
07 Nov 00 | UK Politics
07 Nov 00 | Business
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