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Wednesday, 15 November, 2000, 12:01 GMT
Fuel campaigners pause for thought
Demonstrators with banner
Protest was not as large as expected
Fuel tax protesters are considering their next move after the failure of rallies in London and Edinburgh to attract the predicted thousands of supporters.

On Tuesday leaders of the People's Fuel Lobby threatened further actions in the New Year, but one of the Lobby's leading figures has voiced doubts about whether it could continue in its present form.


This is a very well-targeted package that the chancellor has put forward

Lord Macdonald
Paul Ashley told BBC2's Newsnight: "[Tuesday's protest] wasn't as big as we were hoping for. Possibly we are not going to last very much longer in the guise we are in now.

"But I still think we can keep these negotiations going, and as we proceed nearer to the General Election, that will be when we can review the situation and try to achieve our ultimate goal to have a reduction in the tax on fuel to levels more akin to those in Europe."

Limited turnout

Protesters had threatened to bring the capital to a standstill with a convoy of up to 25,000 trucks after Chancellor Gordon Brown's failure to comply with their demands for a 26p-a-litre cut in diesel duty by their 60-day deadline.

But in the event, only around 350 vehicles joined the demonstrations, and were left parked on the M40 Westway motorway while protest leaders addressed a crowd of around 400 in Hyde Park.

Lorries on the road
Protestors say they could do it all again in January
A similar rally in Edinburgh also passed off without significant disruption to the city's life. PFL chairman David Handley told the crowd: "We will still keep talking with the government and we will gather again in January if they still don't listen to us."

Representatives of the haulage industry said that they would not be pushing for more government concessions in advance of next year's Budget, after the government announced tax disc rebates worth from 150 to 4,625 a truck.

Under pressure

Transport minister Lord Macdonald said he believed the protest leaders had accepted that their call for massive fuel tax cuts was unrealistic and were now ready to engage in dialogue with the government.

Lord McDonald
Lord McDonald - massive fuel tax cuts "unrealistic"
He said hauliers' representatives had given a positive reaction to Mr Brown's package of help for the industry, including a fuel tax freeze, 3p off low sulphur diesel and cuts in vehicle excise duty for trucks:

"It is an industry that has been under pressure. This is a very well-targeted package that the chancellor has put forward."

David Green, director general of the Freight Transport Association said: "It was widely acknowledged from our side that this is a substantial package."

Although the industry would still like to see further help from the government, that would be a matter for discussions next year, said Mr Green.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Paul Ashley, People's Fuel Lobby
"I don't say there is no way forward"

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14 Nov 00 | UK
14 Nov 00 | Scotland
13 Nov 00 | UK
13 Nov 00 | Scotland
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