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Monday, 13 November, 2000, 11:44 GMT
Fuel convoy rolls on
Lorries in convoy
The protesters hope their convoy will grow
Fuel protesters are continuing their slow moving convoy from the North of England to London on Monday - the day their original 60-day deadline for tax cuts expires.

The campaigners have vowed to continue their journey despite signs of dwindling support and have urged motorists to join their fight.

The convoy aims to travel through Milton Keynes on Monday. It is being allowed to travel only along major arterial routes and not through any towns or city centres.

More than 50 lorry drivers from Wales are expected to meet up with the convoy during the day and in Scotland, fuel protesters are also planning two convoys which will converge on Edinburgh on Tuesday.

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Twenty hauliers and farmers and 10 car drivers took just over two hours to travel 57 miles from Cannock, Staffordshire, to a truck stop on the A5 near Rugby, Warwickshire on Sunday.

The vehicles were cheered by dozens of supporters waving Union Flags from motorway bridges as they drove along the M6 through the West Midlands, Warwickshire and Leicestershire.

The convoy members said they still aim to reach London for a mass rally in London's Hyde Park.

They face a police exclusion zone to stop them entering the capital and many will have to use public transport to attend the rally.

Tractor
Tractors joined the start of the lorry protest
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon insisted there were "real" security concerns that terrorists could infiltrate the convoy.

His fears were prompted by the discovery of a bomb outside Belfast, believed to have been destined for London.

But fuel protest spokesman Andrew Spence, a farmer from Consett, Co Durham, dismissed the defence secretary's comments.

"Mr Hoon wants to come back down to reality," he said.

"It's totally preposterous."

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

The People's Fuel Lobby, involved in the September fuel protests, had hoped hundreds of lorries would make the long journey south to highlight what they see as excessive duty on fuel.

But Mr Spence insisted the convoy was still strong, and disputed that numbers were disappointing.

Peaceful

He told BBC News 24 the convoy was getting the message across and there would not be a return to the direct action protests.

"We won't be going back to the refineries, we will not be picketing supermarkets," he said.

"We are just doing our peaceful protest to make the country and the chancellor aware that we are not suited."

Police have used legal action to keep strict controls on the convoy's speed and routes to prevent disruption.

Some members of fuel campaign have called for the rally to be cancelled rather than risk an embarrassingly low turnout.

Driver
Drivers are determined to finish the cross country journey
The convoy is also being tailed by an environmentally-friendly Greenpeace campaign lorry.

The pressure group will give away thousands of litres of diesel at a "guerilla garage" in central London on Monday.

The special green version called bio-diesel, which is said to cause much less damage to the climate, is not commercially available in Britain.

But the pressure group will be distributing it free to motorists to show it is possible to reduce the environmental impact of motoring.

The venue for the event - an abandoned garage refurbished by the group's volunteers - will be announced at 0900GMT, one hour before it opens.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"The truckers are undeterred"

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