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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"There are signs of frustration by shoppers"
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The BBC's Karen Allen
"Health services will continue to prepare for the worst"
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The Prime Minister, Tony Blair
"We cannot and should not be threatened into a change of policy"
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Thursday, 14 September, 2000, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
UK fuel blockades tumble
Oil tankers leaving Jarrow
Oil tankers leave the Jarrow plant in Tyne and Wear
More fuel tankers are back on the move following the protest leaders' decision to call off their blockades at several major refineries.

The UK's largest fuel blockade at the Stanlow oil refinery in Cheshire was the first to end, followed by others across the country - but a handful of blockades are standing firm.

Up to 90% of forecourts remain closed because of fuel shortages, with the limited supplies still trying to reach emergency services.

Tanker drivers are saying that even when deliveries resume normally, it could be the weekend before fuel for the public is available.

Click here for a list of designated filling stations and fuel depots from the DTI

The army will help out by using its country-wide tankers to deliver fuel to "essential services", the Ministry of Defence confirmed.

Following a special cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "There is no way that any government of this country could or should yield to this form of protest."

The government was prepared to listen to protesters' demands via "discussion and exchange of views", he said.

Responding to the announcement that Esso and TotalFinaElf are to raise fuel prices, Mr Blair said he could not understand the decision and would be meeting with oil companies later in the day.

On the continent truckers tightened their grip in their protest over high fuel taxes, sparking EU ministers to call emergency talks in Brussels next Wednesday.

'Deliveries a priority'

Esso was "extremely pleased" that blockades were ending, and a spokesman said: "There is still some way to go.

"Esso's priority now is to do all we can to increase fuel supplies as soon as possible. We shall start by delivering only to the government-designated sites, both service stations and commercial locations."

The protest at the BP Grangemouth refinery in central Scotland ended shortly after Stanlow, and was joined by Cardiff, Plymouth and refineries on Humberside.

Making the first announcement at 0520 BST, Stanlow protest spokesman Brynle Williams said they were "backing down in the interests of the general public".

Protesters in Jarrow
Blockades were lifted throughout Thursday morning
"We have won a moral and just victory," he said and thanked the public for their "fantastic support". Within the hour, protesters' lorries began to leave the site.

But Mr Williams hinted that protests could resume if the government does not carry out a review of fuel duty within 60 days.

A group of about 15 lorry drivers were still voicing their protests in Stanlow, after arriving at the refinery expecting to carry out their demonstration day shift.

Protests latest
Stanlow: Off
Cardiff: Off
Manchester: Off
Jarrow: Off
Norfolk: Continues
Pembrokeshire: Off
Grangemouth: Off
Avonmouth: Off
Plymouth: Off
Ipswich: Expected to end
Kingsbury: Expected to end
Haulier Robert Burns, a spokesman throughout the four day picket at Grangemouth said: "It is down to them (the government) to offer us something in return.

Some vow to continue

Tankers have begun to leave the major refinery to bring desperately needed fuel to the nation's petrol pumps.

The Avonmouth protesters called off their action shortly after 0800BST, with the blockade at Plymouth's Cattedown fuel depot following shortly after.

Some campaigners who were initially standing strong have now followed suit.

Demonstrators in Jarrow in the North East went back on their earlier decision to continue, with all blockades lifted at 1100 BST.

Protesters' demands
Fuel tax cut in 60 days
Meeting with transport ministers
Meeting with agriculture ministers

Fawley blockades have also been lifted and protests at two refineries in Pembrokeshire, west Wales and Trafford Park in Manchester are coming to an end.

But protestors at the Kingsbury oil terminal in the Midlands are continuing their demonstration, supported by Essex, Purfleet, Coryton, Grays and Thames Matix.

Red alert

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has had to take out extra powers to direct fuel to emergency services because not enough is getting through.

Another 300 depots serving emergency services will be added to the 2,500 designated stations.

Getting to work by horse
Horse power: A hospital employee is determined to get to work
On Wednesday, Mr Blair told the protesters that their actions were putting "lives at risk" by depriving essential services, and the NHS was put on red alert.

The world-famous Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge was restricting admissions to emergencies only on Thursday, and many hospitals have had to cancel operations.

Supermarkets have been reporting that customers were panic-buying, and some stores began rationing bread and milk.

Bus companies around the country are restricting their passenger services, warning that diesel stocks could be dry by the weekend.

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See also:

14 Sep 00 | Business
Anger at hike in pump prices
14 Sep 00 | SOL
Fuel flows but sport suffers
14 Sep 00 | Europe
European paralysis set to spread
14 Sep 00 | Business
Fuel crisis: The cost to business
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