Prime minister Tony Blair told MPs that cutting fuel duties would either increase interest rates and mortgages and reduce scope for helping pensioners or lead to lower spending on public services. The finance ministry added that the cut of UK£0.26 (euros 0.45) per litre sought by the protesters would cost UK£11.8bn, equivalent to UK£0.04 on income tax. The government today announced further plans to prevent any renewal of blockades from stopping supplies of petrol and diesel.
Among blanket media coverage of the development, the government's tough line won support from the Financial Times newspaper. It accused the protesters of "astonishing arrogance" and urged the administration not to cut taxes next week but to start a broader process of rationalising the balance of energy taxation.
Environmental arguments for maintaining high fuel taxes have also started to gain greater prominence following recent weather extremes widely blamed on climate change (ENDS Daily 31 October), after being virtually invisible during September's protests.
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