Brown survives another Labour MP rebellion

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London, Sept.7 : British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has managed to convince rebels within his Labour party to give him some political breathing space with regard to imposing a windfall tax on energy companies.

A rebel MP, Rob Marris, had led calls for suppliers to be hit with a one-off tax to help poor families meet the cost of rising energy bills. But he decided not to press ahead with the demand, as it would have led to cabinet resignations.

Britain's Chancellor of Exchequer Alistair Darling and John Hutton, Secretary of State for Business, had warned that a windfall tax would damage the economy.

"The Government has made good progress in its negotiations with the energy companies. I still favour a windfall tax but it is not a deal-breaker for me. We have got to look at the whole package," The Independent quoted Marris, as saying.

Brown will continue his fight to retain the top job in government, when he chairs a Cabinet meeting in the West Midlands today.

The package to help families with fuel bills is expected on Wednesday, depending on talks between ministers and energy firms.

According to the paper, Brown is counting on signs of an economic recovery to restore his political fortunes.

The fuel package, details of which will be outlined this week, will include around one billion pounds towards the cost of insulating the homes of the poorest families.

According to The Independent, the Government is also planning a series of measures, including helping poorer people use the Internet so they can switch suppliers. Officials are working with suppliers to increase the use of "smart meters", to help cut bills for the poorest customers.

The proposals emerged after a series of stormy meetings between ministers and bosses of the "Big Six" suppliers, which failed to result in a significant cash boost to the most "fuel poor" members of society.

A source at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform said the energy firms had agreed to make it easier for customers to switch suppliers over the telephone and by other means.

Critics last night warned that spending a billion pounds on energy-efficiency measures was far short of what is needed to eradicate fuel poverty.

Union leaders have said that they will call for those earning more than 100,000 pounds a year to pay a minimum tax rate of 32 per cent, rising to 40 per cent for those on 200,000 pounds or more.

ANI

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