Again, the Government appear to be in denial both on the fuel crisis and on the crisis in the countryside. What could be more provocative than Ministers seeking to claim that the Government have not put up fuel duty in the past three years? Nothing could be more provocative for the protesters, and nothing could be more unwise, in advance of the events of next week. What could be more provocative than a Minister standing at the Dispatch Box claiming that the number of bus passenger journeys in the countryside has increased, when the Government's own figures show that that number may have gone up in London, but has declined in the shire counties in the past three years? If the Minister disagrees with me, why does he not quote the figures in his response?
Has the Minister disowned the comments in his 1996 document "Consensus for Change", which said:
it is essential that taxation does not result in further isolation of those in rural areas…?
Who does he think has been disadvantaged most by the Government's increase in the fuel duty, other than those who are most vulnerable—farmers and those who live in the countryside in relative poverty?