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Saturday, 11 November, 2000, 05:41 GMT
Fuel rally looks for support
Lorries in convoy
The protesters hope their convoy will grow
Fuel tax campaigners say they are expecting hundreds of lorry from the north-west of England to join their convoy on Saturday as it continues to travel towards London.

The protesters will try to drive through Manchester on the second day of their five-day journey.

But the campaigners face a number of obstacles - police want to keep them out of the city centre, and support for the protest itself appears to be dwindling.

The People's Fuel Lobby had hoped hundreds of lorries would join the journey from Tyneside.

But only about 70 lorries, tractors and cars were involved in a warm-up drive around Newcastle on Friday.

And by the time the convoy arrived at Ferrybridge services off the M62 in West Yorkshire on Friday night, only about 50 vehicles were left.

The convoy is due to set off from Ferrybridge at about 0900 GMT on Saturday.

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The protesters have already been told by Prime Minister Tony Blair that no further concessions will be made following the chancellor's offer of a 1bn hand-out for the haulage industry in his pre-Budget speech on Wednesday.

They have also been warned they will not be allowed to enter London - an exclusion zone will be set up to stop them.

Police have warned protesters they could face prosecution
Police forces along the route have taken legal action to enforce strict controls on the demonstration to keep the lorries away from flood-hit cities such as York and prevent them causing widespread disruption.

Threats of a go-slow have been countered by police warnings that anyone driving too slowly or blocking main roads and traffic could face prosecution.

Police accompanying the drivers have been told the convoy's speed limit should be at least 50mph.


One of the leaders of the original protests in September, Welsh farmer Brynle Williams, has said he wants to see the action called off.

He said "a lot of doors" had been opened recently, and he feared the convoy and accompanying protests next week would prove counter-productive, costing the protesters public sympathy and support.

But Mr Williams has been branded a traitor by one of the convoy leaders, Andrew Spence, who has reacted "furiously" to the way the police have handled the convoy.

The protesters have complained at the attitude of the police, saying they were filmed by officers.

Fuel protestors
The protest has caused some tailbacks
Solicitor Stephen Alexander, who is representing the People's Fuel Lobby, had earlier said the protesters would respect the law and did not want to cause disruption.

Mr Spence attacked the London ban, saying: "If that is the way the police want to do it they can, but this is another nail in the coffin of the police state.

"The protest is not running out of steam - I think this will give it more steam."

Word had spread from pub to pub and from driver to driver, he said.


Metropolitan Police Commission Sir John Stevens said officers will set up checkpoints, in some cases as far out as the M25, to stop lorry drivers who will need to produce identification to prove they are on legitimate business.

Protesters going to the People's Fuel Lobby rally in Hyde Park will have to park outside the capital and take public transport.

After heading for Manchester on Saturday, the convoy plans to move on to Stoke and Birmingham on Sunday, and Northampton and Milton Keynes on Monday, before reaching London on Tuesday.

The convoy follows a 60-day moratorium laid down by the protesters after the September oil refinery blockades.

Last time the fuel protesters demonstrated in the capital there was traffic chaos, and their nationwide blockades brought much of the country to a standstill.

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The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"The credibility of this campaign is now at stake"



See also:

10 Nov 00 | Scotland
10 Nov 00 | UK Politics
09 Nov 00 | UK Politics
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