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We heard briefly from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry during the crisis. He said that, if we cut taxes now, there would not be enough money for schools and hospitals. That is entirely false. No supplementary Budget has been produced to give more money to schools and hospitals since the windfall petrol tax money started to come in. We all know that the money will not be spent on schools and hospitals. If the Government wanted to spend more money on them, they would have had to announce more spending to the House because they had not planned to obtain the windfall tax.
We were told that the Government could not change Budgets during the course of a year. Yet the summer supplementary estimates show that the Government changed their Budget plans not so long ago. They increased spending not on schools and hospitals but on all sorts of other items of public expenditure from the Export Credits Guarantee Department to Inland Revenue administration costs. They regularly change their Budget plans, as previous Governments have done, during the year. However, when it comes to a just change, for which the public is hungry, to give back some of our money, which the Government should not have taken and had not planned to take, they are strangely silent, wooden, and unable to change their mind or make an adjustment.
I do not urge the Chancellor to be imprudent or incautious with the family silver or with our money. However, if he is such a stickler for his Budget judgment, he should try to return to it. My constituents and I would now settle for the amount of tax that the Government were planning to take from motorists in the previous Budget. At the time, I believed that it was far too much, and I argued against it. My hon. Friends and I voted against it. However, we would now settle for that amount, which the Chancellor would have robbed from us, because the windfall means that he will take up to £4,000 million a year extra than those high Budget amounts.
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Stephen Timms): Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House where he thinks that the windfall is coming from? There is not, as some have suggested, a value added tax windfall, for example. VAT receipts are pretty much on track with the Budget projection.
Mr. Redwood: The figure of up to £4,000 million comes from independent accountants and it may be an overestimate. However, a large sum is coming, primarily from petroleum revenue tax and other taxes that are levied upon those bringing oil from the North sea. A huge windfall will come directly from the price of oil. It will come also from VAT. The Minister might like to check past statements on the wonderful machinery within the Treasury. He will discover that even the Prime Minister has admitted that the Government are receiving more money from VAT than they were expecting, and that quite a bit of that extra VAT receipt will come from petrol and oil products.
Mr. Redwood: That was a carefully worded intervention. The hon. Gentleman seems to be conceding that there will be a large windfall from PRT and taxes on the oil companies. I look forward to seeing shortly the statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think that those commentators who are predicting that there will be a large increase in revenues compared with the Budget forecasts in May are right, and that much of that will be from the motorist or from the haulage industry. I suspect that we shall see another shortfall in spending of the sort that the Government have regularly recorded year by year but have tried to suppress.
There is no Budget case for hanging on to the money. As my right hon. and hon. Friends have said, taxation is bankrupting the haulage industry. It is not driving lorries off the road because it is swapping the business from British hauliers to French, Belgian, Italian and Spanish hauliers. Is that what the Minister wants? I thought that he was a British Minister in a British Government. He should stand up for the British haulage industry.
Why are the Government so dilatory in introducing the Brit disc, which the Conservative party suggested a long time ago? We think that we should charge foreign lorry operators more for using our roads and cluttering them, and charge British lorry operators rather less so that they have more chance of competing fairly. I see the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) nodding in agreement. He has run a haulage business, or has been involved with one. He knows that what I say is true. We are not being fair to the British haulage industry.
In many rural areas, there are no bus services or train services that people can use, so that they might leave their car at home. The Government have done nothing to change that position. Many of my constituents in a suburban area get up every morning and draw back the curtains to see whether the integrated transport policy has yet arrived. They find that there is still no bus stop within a mile. There is still no train station within 5 or 10 miles. They have no choice. They must use their car, van or lorry to get about or to go about their business. It is high time that the Government understood that and did not tax people into oblivion for doing what they need to do because there is no proper alternative.
The Government have cruelly let down the motorist. They are now penalising him or her by their failure to get up and running an integrated transport strategy that would provide the motorist with a decent alternative. The Government decided to penalise the British haulage industry to help the foreign haulage industry. The Government decided to tax the poor off the road so that the rich and those in government can travel with fewer people getting in the way.
I hold the Government responsible. When I went along the queues at the last remaining open petrol station in my constituency during the dispute, everyone told me, inconvenienced as he or she was, that the blame rested with the Government and not with the protesters. The Government should listen. They should understand that there is a strong democratic movement outside the House. They should understand also that the Opposition speak for the overwhelming majority of the nation when we say to the Chancellor, "Get these taxes down now. It is our money and we want it back. It is a rip-off. You do not need the windfall."
I want to concentrate on the politics of what happened a few weeks ago and to address the subject of the debate. Is the cost of petrol and diesel too high? Yes, and no one thinks that that is good for the economy. The question is how we can reduce the cost of fuel. It cannot be done simply through the fuel tax levy. The tripling of oil prices cannot be ignored. A few weeks ago, the Opposition promised to take 3p off a litre of fuel, but the cost of fuel has increased by almost that amount since then. Conservatives and free marketeers should know that the price of anything, including diesel and petrol, is determined by the price that the market is prepared to pay.
I do not accept that a cut in the fuel tax levy would automatically reduce the price of fuel. What would there be to stop the oil companies making more profit? There are great problems in the road haulage industry, but they are not caused just by the fuel tax levy. As the Minister said, there is a combination of factors.
Road hauliers suffer from the actions of their colleagues in the road haulage industry, because the big road hauliers cut the throats of the small companies. Many small road haulage businesses in my constituency are in trouble, usually as a result of the cut-throat approach of a lot of the big road hauliers who run the industry through the Road Haulage Association. The big road hauliers--not the small business man, whose interests I thought the Conservatives claimed to represent--benefit more from what the association suggests.
I want to talk not only about the many single-driver businesses in the road haulage industry but about the thousands of people who are employed as drivers. Many drivers in my constituency who are in the road haulage industry work 60, 70 or 80 hours a week. A constituent came to me last week whose husband works 70 hours a week driving a coal truck, but qualifies for working families tax credit. There are problems, but not just for those who run businesses within the road haulage industry. The industry has the problem of providing good terms and conditions for its work force. We should not ignore that.
I have been a Member of this place for 13 years. Over the past few years, we have debated how to improve our democracy, and that debate continues. We must take account of what happened a few weeks ago. We must be careful to protect our democracy. What I saw in our country a few weeks ago was far from democratic. I was criticised for making the fair point that, as a miner for 23 years, in 1984-85, when I was on strike fighting for my job and to save my community, I was treated a wee bit differently from the protesters in 2000. That has to be questioned.
The Road Haulage Association was faxing, e-mailing and telephoning its members in my constituency days before the protests. It sent people to the demonstrations and protests. To say that the event was spontaneous is just a bit rich, and I do not accept it.
The hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Norman)--I paraphrase--referred to the Prime Minister's immortal words, "Things will be getting back to normal in 24 hours". Unfortunately--or perhaps fortunately, in a sense--I was ill during those few days, and was at home watching everything live on Sky television. As I saw it all unfold, I was worried about what I saw. The Prime Minister met oil companies and the police, and then made his statement about things getting back to normal within 24 hours. In fact, within 24 hours not only were things not getting back to normal; they seemed to be getting increasingly worse.
On the Wednesday of that week, the Prime Minister had another meeting with the oil companies and the police. Within hours of that meeting, the protest was being called off. It is in that context that I raise my point about the defence of democracy, and the need to ask how we, as a Parliament, can defend it.
If what happened was a spontaneous act--a popular uprising which happened just like that, and was called off just like that, as it was--questions must be asked. What led to its being called off? I do not know whether the Prime Minister will be able to tell us for 30 years about the conversation that took place in Downing street, but I am certainly worried about it.
A Member of Parliament, the late Norman Buchan, told me when I arrived as a new Member, "Jimmy, always suspect a conspiracy until proven different". That was good advice. I am not persuaded by apparent coincidences such as the one I have mentioned. Questions must be asked about the way in which things were happening--and not just in this country. The protest began in France, came to the United Kingdom and then went to Belgium, Germany, Italy and Holland, in that order. We have been told by those who organised it here that they wanted parity in Europe.