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Tuesday, 14 November, 2000, 17:24 GMT
Politicians 'failing' over fuel debate
Fuel protesters, west Wales
Fuel protesters prepare to leave west Wales for London
Friends of the Earth (FoE) has criticised the government and main political parties for a "total dereliction of duty" over their handling of the fuel crisis.

Speaking at a conference in Cardiff, FoE Director Charles Secrett said politicians had "failed the country" by not successfully linking the issue of fuel duty to environmental issues.

Friends of the Earth Cymru has urged Assembly Environment Minister Sue Essex to seek Treasury fuel duty revenues to be re-directed to flood-damaged parts of mid and north Wales.

Mr Secrett called on the government to assist speeding up the process of converting the UK's petrol stations to "green" fuels, which is currently taking place at a rate of just one per day.

Charles Secrett, director Friends of the Earth
Charles Secrett: Green conversion call
His comments coincide with the convergence of fuel protesters on London to express their dismay at the government's handling of fuel taxation.

The row between the two sides has deflected attention away from the real issues, said Mr Secrett.

"They (politicians) have not demonstrated the leadership that is necessary," he told BBC News Online Wales at Friends of the Earth Cymru's conference.

"No-one buys the argument that we need high fuel duties to help our hospitals and schools, that is rubbish and people can see through that."

Mr Secrett said the government now had to make the necessary connection between fuel taxation and the provision of decent public transport systems in the UK.

We can do the right thing by the environment and get the polluting motorists to pay the penalties

Charles Secrett, Director Friends of the Earth
"The government is not making this argument.

"We think what the chancellor (Gordon Brown) should be doing is arguing for the "polluter-pays" monies to be recycled back into improving public transport, helping truckers and car drivers go green."

Mr Secrett said Mr Brown should explain how he was going to take that money to help drivers through means of lower tax rates and lower Vehicle Excise Duty rates.

"In the pre-budget statement, the chancellor had a classic opportunity to be able to make these arguments and be able to explain how he was going to continue lowering duty on the cleaner fuels.

"Calor Gas are converting one petrol station a day to take up these cleaner fuels.

'Support green technology'

"The trouble is you cannot get hold of the clean fuels, such as the liquified natural gases, which are much better for keeping down carbon dioxide emissions.

"What we need is the political support for those types of technologies.

"In this way we can square the circle, we can do the right thing by the environment...getting the polluting motorists to pay the penalties and rewarding the virtuous drivers."

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