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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 September 2005, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Business to keep up fuel pressure
Hauliers protest outside the Vospak refinery in Purfleet, Surrey
Hauliers say UK fuel taxes are out of line with the rest of Europe
Business groups are to keep up the pressure on the government over fuel taxes as a series low-key protests about rising fuel prices got underway.

They want the UK to follow the lead of France, Austria and Poland which are either cutting excise duties or have announced rebates for key industries.

The average cost of unleaded petrol is now 4.6% higher than three weeks ago, while diesel prices have risen 2.5%.

Chancellor Gordon Brown has ruled out cutting duty on fuel.

Low-key protests

Groups angry at the rising fuel costs have promised three days of protests beginning on Wednesday.

Sporadic demonstrations took place outside several refineries on Wednesday morning while there were few signs of a repeat of the panic buying seen at some petrol stations in the past few days.

Petrol prices rises

The average price of a litre of unleaded petrol rose to 96.05p on 13 September, according to new figures from research firm Catalist.

Prices have surged 6.6% since the start of August while average diesel prices have increased 4.8% to 98.30p over the same period.

The impact of Hurricane Katrina - which sent world oil prices soaring to a record $70.85 on 30 August - has inflated prices.

However, pump prices have continued to rise even though the cost of a barrel of crude oil has since fallen back below $64.

Business lobby groups said they were opposed to any direct action but pledged to keep the pressure up on the government over fuel taxes.

The Institute of Directors and The Forum of Private Business have been among groups calling for a cut in fuel duty which they say now accounts for 65% of the cost of a litre of diesel.

Out of line

One leading haulage company said fuel prices had risen 20% this year and fuel duties in the UK were out of line with the rest of Europe, leaving British firms at a disadvantage

"We are now in a situation where many haulage companies are struggling because of increased competition and a slowdown in the economy," said Ian Baxter, managing director of RH Freight.

Facts and figures behind UK petrol price rises

"Many smaller businesses are likely to go bust unless the Chancellor reduces duty very soon."

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Brown said rising oil prices were a global phenomenon which required global solutions - including increased output by Opec members and added investment in new refineries.

It emerged on Tuesday that Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson could commit 55m to building a new oil refinery, potentially in the UK.

Sir Richard - whose Virgin Atlantic airline has been hit by rising fuel costs - is forming a new company to pursue the project and said he had held informal discussions with British Airways about the idea.




SEE ALSO:
Brown calls for oil price effort
13 Sep 05 |  UK Politics


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