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The BBC's Mark Mardell
"The Conservatives directly appealed to Mondeo man, and woman"
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The BBC's Evan Davis
"A stunning reversal in policy"
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Shadow Chancellor, Michael Portillo
"We would not be in the hole Gordon Brown is now"
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Wednesday, 20 September, 2000, 21:06 GMT 22:06 UK
Tory fuel pledge 'too small'
Hague and Portillo at their party's press conference
The Conservatives say the government is out of touch
Fuel tax protesters have rejected a pledge by Conservatives to cut the price of petrol and diesel by three pence a litre if they win the next election.

The Farmers For Action group, which helped organise the first fuel price protest, at the Stanlow refinery in Cheshire, does not believe a three-pence cut is enough.

Spokesman Tom Houghton said: "As far as I'm concerned, our prices have got to be brought in line with those in France because we should all be on a level playing field."

It's easy for the Tories to say they will do it when they are not in power

Frank Stears
Truck protester
Frank Stears, of truckers' protest group Trans-Action, said: "It's easy for the Tories to say they will do it when they are not in power."

But shadow chancellor Michael Portillo said the cuts would be possible without affecting government spending or public services.

The government has hit back by calling on the Tories to reveal which services they would cut to fund the drop in tax.

The Tories' pre-election promise increased pressure on the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, who has consistently rejected demands for a quick cut in fuel duties, saying the government will not give in to petrol protesters' demands for action within 60 days.

Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling said the Tories' announcement showed they could not be trusted on tax.

William Hague
William Hague: "Prime minister is arrogant and out of touch"
"Rather than William Hague attempting to jump on any passing bandwagon it is time the Tories came clean with the British people and admitted which school and which hospitals they will cut," he said.

European transport ministers meeting in Luxembourg are considering setting up a UK-style "road haulage forum" to boost links between governments and the industry.

They are also considering the possibility of an information exchange, which would feature an EU road haulage "hotline" and website to keep member states informed of road blocks in each other's territory.

Mr Portillo said the proposed three-pence price cut would mean that an average family would save 1.85 every time they filled their petrol tanks.

He said the measure was a carefully costed one.

"It's clear that at least three pence a litre, or 13.6p a gallon can prudently be taken off the tax on fuel," Mr Portillo said.

Mr Hague dismissed suggestions the cut would affect public spending.

"The government are now receiving vastly more revenue than they expected at the beginning of the financial year," he said.

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Mr Hague accused the prime minister of being arrogant and out of touch with those " whose livelihoods are being destroyed by the highest prices in Europe".

Protesters behind the blockades which led to last week's fuel crisis insisted they would stick to their pledge to take no further action until a 60-day deadline was up.

Members of a new lobby group representing the protesters, the People's Fuel Lobby, spoke out to kill the rumours.

Farmer David Hanley, who joined the Cardiff and Avonmouth pickets last week, said: "We are agreed and we are men of honour - if we say 60 days we mean 60 days."

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See also:

20 Sep 00 | World fuel crisis
UK fuel tax: The facts
20 Sep 00 | Wales
Careless talk costs litres
14 Sep 00 | Business
Could the government cut fuel duty?
19 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Resign call over donation 'lies'
19 Sep 00 | Europe
IMF warns of oil price threat
18 Sep 00 | Business
Oil prices hit new 10-year high
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