11 October 2000
Chancellor in secret talks over fuel
By Johann Tasker
THE Chancellor of the Exchequer has discussed possible ways of appeasing rural anger over fuel taxes during secret talks with farm union leader Ben Gill.
Gordon Brown paid a visit to Mr Gills Yorkshire farm last week, confirmed a spokeswoman for the National Farmers Union in London.
The news comes amid speculation that the chancellor is preparing to back down over high fuel prices ahead of a 60-day deadline imposed by protestors.
Mr Brown is also reported to have travelled to Leeds with transport minister Lord Macdonald to meet with farmers and hauliers last Friday (6 October).
It is understood that the chancellor will make an announcement regarding fuel tax and motoring costs during his pre-Budget statement due on 31 October.
But it remains to be seen whether any concessions he may offer will be enough to dissuade demonstrators from resuming blockades of fuel terminals.
One option, according to newspaper reports, is to offer rural motorists discounts of 110 on car tax. Eligible motorists would pay 45 rather than 155.
However, a large cut in fuel duty is thought to be unlikely because it would be seen by many at Westminster as bowing to the demands of blockaders.
Protestors have given the chancellor until 13 November to make a clear commitment to cut the fuel prices or face a repeat of last months protests.