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Peter Gammon, President, Police Supt's Assoc
"The police will now have to clear the way, using the minimum force to do so"
 real 28k

BP Managing Director, Dr Chris Gibson-Smith
"What we need to do now is deliver the fuel"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 12 September, 2000, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Police urge cautious approach to protests
Police monitor the situation at Avonmouth docks
Police want to avoid heavy-handed action
Police officers should not be used to break up demonstrations against rising fuel prices, according to a leading police superintendent.

Superintendent Kevin Morris, president-elect of the Police Superintendent's Association, said he believed it would be wrong to use officers in the way they were used during the miners' strike 16 years ago.

"It would be awful if the police were used to suppress these demonstrations," he told the association's conference in Newport, South Wales.

"We have discussed asylum seekers this morning and they are coming here because they believe we have a free society. If police are used as a sledgehammer to crack this particular nut it would be wrong.

People seem willing to put up with some discomfort for a while because they can't afford to keep paying these fuel prices

Superintendent Kevin Morris

"We've got a dispute that has captured the imagination of a sizeable chunk of the public.

"People seem willing to put up with some discomfort for a while because they can't afford to keep paying these fuel prices.

"I think the government has to consider alternative approaches to dealing with this dispute."

'Sufficient powers'

Mr Morris' comments came as Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said the government would not give in to protesters' demands and added that police had sufficient powers to ensure supplies got through.

Following a crisis cabinet meeting with the prime minister, he said the government was convinced fuel could be properly distributed and said it was the responsibility of oil companies to ensure this.

Police entered the dispute for the first time on Tuesday when they removed a blockade at a heating oil depot in Wymondham.

Before that they had been simply monitoring protests at depots and refineries around the country.

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland said it was adopting a "firm, fair and consistent approach to policing the current situation".

Chairman Andrew Brown said the service will "continue to carry out its duties in a diligent and even-handed way, mindful of its role in ensuring public safety".

"We will manage the dispute firmly and fairly, respecting the rights of individuals to undertake legitimate protest while ensuring that industry and private citizens are allowed to go about their lawful business with minimum disruption."

Avon and Somerset police also issued a statement regarding protests at Avonmouth docks, following accusations that police were failing to take action.

'Necessary action'

Force spokesman Tim Jones said the force's role was to "maintain a balance", giving individuals the right to protest with minimal disruption for others.

"On Sunday we made it clear to protesters and oil companies that if tankers wished to enter or leave the complex with fuel other than for emergency use then we would take any necessary action to ensure that happened," he said.

"However the oil companies decided not to attempt to collect fuel for general distribution.

"Tanker drivers collecting fuel for emergency use have entered and left the complex and continued to do so."

Merseyside Police urged oil suppliers to contact them to discuss ways to deliver petrol to the area.

Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Hogan-Howe, responsible for area operations, said: "We will do everything in our power to ensure that any supplies destined for Merseyside get through."

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