22 September 2000
Minister to meet farmers over fuel tax

By Johann Tasker

AGRICULTURE minister Nick Brown has agreed to meet members of the Farmers For Action group who helped spearhead last weeks fuel blockades.

Mr Brown is likely to meet the farmers shortly, possibly before he is due to address the Labour Party Conference in Brighton next Thursday (28 September).

The minister was unavailable for comment, but a MAFF spokesman said he was eager to discuss a variety of issues, including fuel tax.

A 60-day deadline issued by farmers for the government to make a clear moves towards reducing fuel taxes or face more protests expires on 13 November.

But the MAFF spokesman said that the minister wanted to urge farmers not to take further direct action, and not to return to the barricades.

However, the spokesman acknowledged that Mr Browns hands were tied when it came to reducing fuel tax, which was an issue for the Treasury.

“This is an issue for the Budget. That is the proper forum. Farming is being considered in the big picture – and we are still listening.”

He added: “The governments view is that the right way to reduce oil prices is to put pressure on OPEC.”

Farmers For Action leader David Handley has been elected chairman of a new Peoples Fuel Lobby to press the government to cut fuel taxes.

He told Farmers Weekly: “We will try to do it by talking but, if they wont listen, there is plenty else we can do.”

The new lobby was established at a meeting this week of 54 nationwide representatives, mainly hauliers, who were involved in the fuel protests.

It is independent of Farmers for Action and Mr Handleys new role will not detract from his commitments to the farmers pressure group, he said.