Tories, pensioners and fuel protesters slam Brown

Measures not enough, say hauliers
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Shadow chancellor Michael Portillo attacked the pre-Budget statement, saying Gordon Brown had resorted to the short-term measures he pledged never to approve of and was relying on "quick fixes".

Shadow chancellor Michael Portillo attacked the pre-Budget statement, saying Gordon Brown had resorted to the short-term measures he pledged never to approve of and was relying on "quick fixes".

He said Mr Brown was in "full retreat" and "medling" while Britain slipped economically behind the US and other countries.

And he claimed the Chancellor was very selective in the steps he had made, saying Mr Brown's most lasting monument was the introduction of stealth taxes.

Mr Portillo welcomed the extra money for pensioners but said Mr Brown had massively extended means testing and created a pension system so complicated that recipients would not understand it.

Ministers had repeatedly said that giving concessions to pensioners and fuel protesters would mean closing hospitals and schools, Mr Portillo said, and he challenged Mr Brown to say how many would now shut.

Fuel tax protesters also reacted angrily to the pre-Budget statement, and pensioner leaders said it may not do enough to head-off more protests.

Roy Masterson, a haulier who led the fuel blockades at Trafford Park in Greater Manchester which paralysed the North West, said Chancellor Gordon Brown's statement was "very, very poor" in relation to the concessions on fuel.

Mr Masterson, who owns nine lorries, said: "It goes nowhere to addressing the imbalance that the British people suffer in relation to the rest of Europe.

"Taxing foreign lorry drivers up to our level will not help manufacturing or the people of this country, that is a misleader."

Mr Masterson added that he did welcome the shake up in the road tax system but said: "Gordon Brown needs to come out of his office and meet people like myself, it might enlighten him.

"The rally will go on to London and further talks will have to take place if he is going to make hauliers happy."

Mervyn Kohler, of Help the Aged, said there was stability in the measures taken for pensioners but no long-term goal or planning.

He said the pensioners' demontrations showed that the elderly had been treated "shabbily" in the past.

Jack Jones, 87-year-old president of the National Pensioners Convention, welcomed the extra money but said he would seek further talks to discuss the restoration of the link with average earnings, which has been ruled out by the Government.

"We also need to end the reliance on means-tested benefits. The announcement only comes about because of the pressure put on the Government by the pensioner movement."

Rodney Bickerstaffe, general secretary of Unison and the man expected to take over from Mr Jones next year, said the Government had clearly been listening to pensioners, but added that no-one could describe the extra money as a "huge fortune".

"There will need to be many more discussions with the pensioners movement before they will believe that dignity in old age can be achieved as a right, without the use of means testing, which is still very much to the fore in the Chancellor's proposals."

And he added: "I think there is a measure of disappointment and that we have not seen the end of the pensioners revolt."

Teaching unions applauded Mr Brown's announcement of extra money for schools.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the money would make "one hell of a difference".

He added: "It will certainly go a long way to reducing the backlog of repairs and maintenance that has built up over the last decade.

"It's good news for pupils who deserve to be educated in decent surroundings and good news for teachers who deserve to work in the best possible climate."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "This is very welcome, as is the fact that it is going directly to schools.

"Much-needed repairs will be carried out."

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, was pleased with the extra cash for repairs but added: "He really should have held a bit back to cope with the ever-increasing problems of teachers' pay."

The oil industry welcomed Mr Brown's decision not to impose a windfall tax on the sector's spiralling profits.

There had been speculation that the North Sea industry would be hit with a windfall tax on the bumper profits caused by soaring oil prices.

Earlier this month, Shell reported an 80 percent jump in its last quarter's profits to £2.24bn, while BP reported a record figure of £3.65bn.

Both firms had said the bumper profits were due to the soaring oil prices, which had prompted speculation a windfall tax would be imposed today by Mr Brown.

But in his mini-Budget, Mr Brown said there would be no new tax and instead firms would be encouraged to invest their profits in the future of the industry.

The move was backed by the UK Offshore Operators Association (UKOOA), which represents oil firms and contractors.

A spokeswoman for UKOOA said: "We welcome the Chancellor's comments on the North Sea fiscal regime and his determination not to respond to short term factors.

"We have always been confident that the Government understands fully the economics of the UK industry and the competition that it faces from other parts of the world for investment capital.

"Recent announcements have confirmed earlier impressions that investment is returning to the North Sea and the stability of the UK fiscal regime is one of the reasons for this."

Oil industry analyst Professor Alex Kemp, of the University of Aberdeen, said the move to encourage investment of the massive profits was good news for the North Sea.

"I think the Chancellor is more interested in getting long-term investment established again rather than looking for short term revenues," Professor Kemp told BBC Scotland.

The analyst said there had been lean years until recently because of the low price of oil and the current high profits would be used for investment.

"The industry will be pleased and it will give them a chance to improve investment next year," he said.

Banks were also expecting an ISA savings account boom after the Chancellor announced further tax breaks for savers.

Mr Brown revealed that from next year ISA account holders will continue to be able to invest £7,000 in the tax-free accounts every 12 months.

Banks had previously been told their customers would only be able to save £5,000 next year.

The new £7,000 limit will also be held for the next five years, bringing ISA accounts nearer in line with the TESSA and PEP accounts they replaced two years ago and which allowed customers to enjoy up to £9,000 tax-free investing every year.

The plans were immediately welcomed by consumer groups who claimed people would be encouraged to save.

Consumers' Association spokeswoman Louise Hanson said: "We were convinced the saving limit was going down to £5,000 a year so this is definitely good news.

"It will not only encourage people to save but also maximise their saving potential."

NatWest's ISA manager, Bruce Lochhead, said he was expecting an influx of account applications following the Chancellor's announcement.

He said: "This announcement benefits everyone, both the banks and consumers.

"It means savers can make more of their money while we would certainly expect to be selling more accounts on the back of this."

A spokesman for Lloyds TSB said: "Anything that encourages people to save is a great idea."

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