Blair says he will not reduce fuel duties and condemned campaigners who are calling for a fuel buying boycott: 'I realise how expensive petrol has become and I recognise fully the problems, particularly for those in rural areas or for people or businesses who have to drive long distances.' But he admitted fuel duty increases prior to the March inflation-only rise (2p a litre/9p a gallon) were down to his Government as it tried to balance the books. Blair claimed cutting fuel duty by 2p would cost almost £1 billion and he added: 'It's easy for campaigners to put up signs outside garages saying so much goes to the Treasury. But you don't hear them talking about putting up signs outside hospitals saying the number of nurses and doctors will have to be cut because the Government doesn't have enough money.'
He said investments made in the NHS, moves to tackle crime and improve the education system all 'cost money. None of it comes for free'. And, writing in Sunday's News of the World, Blair concluded: 'We are not anti-car. That's why we froze petrol duty in real terms this year and have cut car tax.'
Meanwhile, Conservative Party leader William Hague claimed in the House of Commons: 'The price of fuel has gone up 44% at the pump since he took office, and 34% of that is due to increases in taxation. It has gone up from 59p to 85p a litre.' But Blair retorted: 'I accept we had to put petrol duty up, but there was a choice: either we could cut the deficit and make the investment in public services, or we could decide not to take those measures.'