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Conservative leader, William Hague
"Tony Blair never ever listens to people"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 13 September, 2000, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
Hague slams Blair, backs ending blockades
protesters
Protesters are sending a message to Tony Blair
Conservative leader William Hague has called on fuel tax protesters to end their blockades of oil refineries - and instead to join a Tory-led "taxpayers' revolt" against the government.

However, Mr Hague stopped short of promising reductions in fuel taxes under a Conservative government.


I don't expect the government to change tax rates today

William Hague
Meanwhile, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown has said he would listen to people's concerns over fuel tax.

But he insisted he would not allow public protests or fluctuations in the world oil price to determine his taxation policies.

Prime Minister Tony Blair held an emergency meeting with oil company representatives on Wednesay. He was also speaking to other European leaders in a bid to put pressure on Opec.

'Risking jobs and health'

Hyde Park Corner man
A protester sits in the road in central London
Mr Hague accused the government of failing to "get a grip" on a crisis which it had itself caused.

He said most protesters were law-abiding citizens.

"I say to them now - calling off the blockades is the responsible thing to do, because people's jobs and their livelihoods and their healthcare are at stake.

"They should call it off and take their place instead in the broader taxpayers' revolt which will gather pace through Parliament and through the ballot box."

'Out of touch'

Mr Hague said the Conservatives were committed to cutting taxes if returned to power, and petrol duty would be a "strong candidate".


I am not going to make decisions based on barricades and blockades

Gordon Brown
He said: "I don't expect the government to change tax rates today because there has been a protest yesterday, but the underlying cause of the problem is the way they have hiked up taxes over a very long period."

And he blamed Labour for "refusing to listen" to warnings.

"The whole country has now paid the price for having an arrogant, out-of-touch government that refuses to compromise with its own electorate.

"For now, Britain is at a standstill. Our petrol stations are empty, our country cannot get to work, our children cannot be delivered to school, our sick cannot get to hospital for routine operations, our businesses cannot deliver their goods.

"What more does it take to get Tony Blair to listen?"

Brown: No giving in

Mr Brown dismissed suggestions that the government had enjoyed a multi-billion-pound tax windfall from the rise in oil prices as "absolutely ridiculous".

Shell tanker
A Shell tanker gets a police escort
Asked whether he would take protesters' concerns on board when next considering fuel duty levels, Mr Brown told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "I make decisions from Budget to Budget and I will look and listen."

But he added: "I am not going to make decisions based on barricades and blockades, nor am I going to make decisions based on the short-term volatility of the oil price."

The increase in the oil price over the past year had hit every country in the world, said Mr Brown.

Conservatives introduced the fuel duty escalator in the 1990s, for automatic annual increases in fuel tax. Labour continued it at a higher rate for two years, until last year, when it abandoned it.

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See also:

12 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Crisis 'to end in 24 hours' - Blair
12 Sep 00 | UK Politics
'Crisis? What crisis?'
13 Sep 00 | Scotland
Cabinet meets over fuel crisis
12 Sep 00 | Business
Brown defends fuel policy
12 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Demands for recall of Parliament
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