Socialist Worker

What we demand from Brown

Issue No. 1715

Direct the bitterness against the bosses

What we demand from Brown

CHANCELLOR GORDON Brown is to make his "autumn statement" on tax and spending in November. Businesses, small and large, will be using the coming 60 days to demand measures on fuel and transport to benefit them. Here are some of the demands workers should make of Brown.

Grab profits off oil firms

OIL COMPANIES are making billions from higher oil and fuel prices. The top five oil companies are set to more than double their profits this year-from �16 billion to at least �32 billion.

They will make even more if world oil prices continue rising. There should be a windfall tax on the extra �16 billion the oil companies have grabbed this year. That money could be used to launch a massive programme of investment in public transport.

People are forced to use cars because of the lack of a decent and affordable alternative. In some cities during last week's crisis there was a glimpse of what might be possible.

In central London, for example, roads were less congested, the air was cleaner, buses moved more quickly, and walking and cycling were easier. In most areas, however, such benefits were outweighed by the lack and high cost of public transport.

An emergency programme to massively expand public transport would drastically cut car use, help the environment and cut the amount ordinary people pay for travel.

Money's here

PROFITS THE oil companies expect to make this year:

  • SHELL-�8.4 billion
  • EXXON MOBIL-�9.4 billion for the first six months of the year.
  • BP-�8.2 billion
  • TEXACO-�2.4 billion
  • TOTALFINAELF-�4 billion

Take action over global warming

GLOBAL WARMING is a real threat. The growing emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide threaten to destabilise the climate, bringing floods, rising sea levels and destructive weather patterns.

We are already seeing that around the world. Floods like those in Italy and in Portsmouth last week, as well as those in the Third World, are set to be more disastrous. Burning fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas to produce electricity, and car exhausts are a key cause of global warming.

In Britain a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions are due to road transport. The government claims it is tackling climate change. But its own royal commission says, "There is something of a hole in the government's climate change programme."

Major public investment in proper insulation of buildings would curb greenhouse gas emissions through less energy use. The Scottish government announced this week that pensioners in Scotland will get free central heating installation. That is a good step, but without proper insulation many won't be able to afford to run it.

Proper insulation can slash domestic electricity bills by 70 percent and cut overall energy use.

Stop plan for roads

THE BOSSES', Confederation of British Industry hailed John Prescott's ten-year transport plan, unveiled in July, as "a monumental victory for the business community".

  • A �21 billion road building programme will boost road traffic by 17 percent by 2010.
  • All the measures to expand public transport in the plan are linked to expensive private business schemes which will hand money to companies like Railtrack.

The government is determined to continue subsidising polluting and destructive heavy lorries. It has slashed the duty on 40-tonne lorries from �3,950 last year to �1,800 now. From February it will allow giant 44-tonne lorries onto the roads.

Massively fund public transport

BRITAIN IS more dependent on cars for travel and lorries for delivering goods than any country in Europe.

  • From the 1960s onward governments shut down rail lines which used to serve many smaller towns and villages, and some city suburbs.

That forced people to use cars, and freight from industries to be carried by lorry.

  • Bus deregulation in the 1980s and 1990s drove 25 percent of passengers off the buses thanks to service cuts, unreliability and high prices.
  • Some 84.3 percent of all goods are delivered by lorry in Britain, over 10 percent more than the European average.
  • Just 9.4 percent of goods are delivered by rail, compared with almost 17 percent in France and over 36 percent in Spain.
  • 87.7 percent of all passenger traffic in Britain is in cars. Britain has the lowest proportion of people travelling by bus and train in the European Union.

The way to get people off the road and out of cars is not simply to price them off through higher petrol prices or congestion charging. That penalises ordinary people who have little alternative but to use a car.

A major expansion of buses, trains and trams, and using the tax system to encourage freight onto the railways, is the answer. A recent survey found that 80 percent of the public support greater use of trains rather than lorries to move freight.

How to get �13 billion

JUST TWO measures could raise an extra �13 billion a year.

  • Today the top rate of income tax is 40 percent.

If this was put back to the 63 percent it was under Margaret Thatcher between 1979 and 1988 it would raise �8 billion extra every year.

  • At present no national insurance is paid on income over �575 a week.

If the ceiling was scrapped and the rich paid national insurance on all their income another �5 billion a year, every year, would be raised.

In the first year this �13 billion would fund restoring the link between pensions and earnings, and the value of the pension to what it was in 1980. That would guarantee every pensioner in Britain a minimum weekly income of �97.60.

Slash fares

PUBLIC transport in Britain is the most expensive in Europe.

  • The overall cost of motoring in Britain is in real terms, after allowing for inflation, the same as 15 years ago.
  • Rail and bus fares leapt by around 30 percent in real terms during the same period.
  • Fares in Sweden are a quarter less and in Spain 75 percent less than in Britain.

Business should be taxed to immediately slash all bus and train fares by at least a third. Whenever fares are cut more people use public transport.

When fares in London were cut by a quarter in 1983 by the old Greater London Council there was an 11 percent rise in passengers on buses and 7 percent on the underground.

Nationalise with no compensation

CAR FACTORIES under threat of closure, such as Ford Dagenham or Rover Longbridge could play a role in meeting the need for public transport. Workers there could use their skills to build the buses, trains and trams that are desperately needed.

If the companies won't cooperate then they should be nationalised. No more money should be thrown at the privatised bus and rail companies like Richard Branson's Virgin or Brian Souter's Stagecoach. These companies should be renationalised without compensation.

Why we need direct taxes on the rich

EVERY GOVERNMENT over the last 21 years has shifted the burden of tax from the rich to the poor. They have cut taxes on wealth and profits, and increased them on basic goods. This is known as indirect taxation.

Indirect taxes, such as VAT, mean everyone pays the same whether they are a millionaire or on the dole.

  • The Tories cut the tax on company profits from 52 percent to 33 percent. New Labour has cut it further to 30 percent.

Tax on profits now raises �34 billion-about half the amount from VAT.

  • Payments on the average mortgage have increased by about �23 a week over the last three years as the unelected Bank of England has put up interest rates.
  • Fuel taxes have also increased. That hits the middle third of households more than the poorest (who are less likely to have cars).

The richest barely notice the increase because managerial salaries and profits are rising so fast.

But the impact of fuel taxes is much less than VAT and mortgage increases. The total amount raised in fuel tax is just 60 percent of the oil companies' profits.

Workers need radical measures-direct taxes on the rich with the money going to public services.

Reverse handout

AT THE height of Margaret Thatcher's government 15 years ago 70p of every �1 made on North Sea oil and gas went to the government, while the oil companies pocketed 30p in profit.

Now, thanks to tax changes introduced by the Tories and New Labour, the oil companies pocket 70p from every �1 made in the North Sea and the government gets just 30p.

Shifting the division back to what it was15 years ago would bring in billions of pounds every year.

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Sat 23 Sep 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1715
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