Labour is not downbeat, says defiant Prescott

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Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott today refused to give way to protesters demanding a cut in fuel tax.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott today refused to give way to protesters demanding a cut in fuel tax.

At the Labour Party conference in Brighton, he said no Government could "chop and change" taxation policy month by month.

Referring to the blockade of oil refineries earlier this month, he told activists: "That is no way to make decisions in a democratic country," he told party activists."

To loud applause, Mr Prescott said ministers had heard "loud and clear" the protesters' demands.

But he added: "We also hear people when they say they want cleaner air, a better environment.

"We hear people say they want money spent on schools and hospitals - not to mention farm subsidies and relief for road haulage.

"Yes, of course, there are real problems. Yes, of course, we will listen. Yes, of course, we do act.

"But we will deal with those problems through proper democratic representation in the budget process.

"No government, no Prime Minister, no Chancellor can simply chop and change taxes by the month, or renegotiate them at a refinery gate, under the threat of 60 days' notice."

Mr Prescott said it was an important week for the party and rejected media suggestions that Labour was "downbeat" in the face of current troubles: "I'm not downbeat. The party's not downbeat and neither is the Labour Government."

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