Last week the Daily Mail carried a report that deputy prime minister John Prescott had written to local authorities encouraging them to "slap a tax on tragedies". The suggestion was that councils should use their powers to levy a £250 fire brigade call-out charge.

Will stricken motorists be required to write out a cheque if they need to be cut out of a car wreck? Will insurance premiums be going up to cover the charge? Not in the foreseeable future, according to Prescott's office, which accused the normally reliable Mail of exaggeration.

The proposed £250 levy is merely "hypothetical", according to a spokeswoman for John Prescott.