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Last Updated: Friday, 14 May, 2004, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Ministers on fuel protest alert
Petrol pumps
Blockades by fuel protestors in 2000 caused petrol shortages
Ministers are making contingency plans to deal with a fresh round of fuel protests as petrol prices soar to a record high.

A meeting of UK government officials and oil industry representatives will discuss responses to possible protests.

Blockades of fuel depots caused major disruption in autumn 2000 as protestors called for cuts in fuel tax.

A Department of Trade and Industry spokesman said Friday's meeting was a routine event.

'Crippling taxes'

Described as "an exercise rather than a meeting", the gathering is attended by civil contingency planning officials and representatives of the DTI, petrol and oil industries, the Scottish Executive and Welsh National Assembly.

The group will discuss possible scenarios and responses to any future fuel protests.

The dispute four years ago over fuel taxes and the price of diesel saw entrances to fuel depots being blocked by lorry drivers, causing widespread petrol shortages.

On Friday, the Road Haulage Association attacked the "crippling taxes being imposed on Britain's road freight industry" and said that "many UK hauliers will, quite simply, come to the end of the road".

The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents independent garages, has declined to comment on the meeting.

However PRA director Ray Holloway has forecast that motorists could end up paying as much as 7 pence more per litre.

"There are implications for pump prices about a month ahead," the Times newspaper reported him as saying.

A surge in the price of crude oil of roughly 25% since the start of 2004 is driving petrol prices higher.

But the RHA's anger centres on Chancellor Gordon Brown's plans to raise tax on motor fuel by 1.92 pence a litre in duty on 1 September. RHA members in Scotland are planning a protest on 15 June.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Hugh Pym
"Petrol is firmly back on the political agenda"



SEE ALSO:
Fuel protest a 'real possibility'
10 May 04  |  England
Oil prices stay near record highs
14 May 04  |  Business


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