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The BBC's Gavin Hewitt
"Throughout the day the restocking of Britain's filling stations"
 real 56k

The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"The protesters believe they still have a trump card"
 real 56k

The BBC's Catherine Marston
"Police are asking motorists to be patient and not to panic buy"
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The BBC's John Pienaar
The taskforce will work out emergency plans
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Saturday, 16 September, 2000, 00:04 GMT 01:04 UK
Fuel crisis post mortem begins
Petrol station at Garston, Hertfordshire
Motorists face long queues at any forecourts with fuel
The UK Government was caught out by the speed and scale of the fuel protests across the UK, the home secretary has admitted.

The government had said that a quarter of the UK's 13,000 petrol stations should have fuel by the end of Friday, after a week of protests against fuel tax levels that has left the country fighting for supplies.

Jack Straw announced a task force would be set up to look at the lessons to be learned from the crisis, and to decide how the country's fuel supplies can be safeguarded in future.

Forecourt refuelling
Estimated 26% of pumps full by weekend
But a poll published on Saturday suggests that more than three quarters of the British public believe the government was to blame for the situation, and that 78% think Prime Minister Tony Blair handled it badly.

The ICM poll, carried out for the Daily Mail, found that almost half of the 502 people interviewed by telephone said the crisis had made them less likely to vote Labour in the next general election.

The task force, headed by Mr Straw, will be made up of senior oil industry figures, top police officers and Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers, Chief Secretary Andrew Smith, and Transport Minister Lord Macdonald.

Jack Straw
Jack Straw: Learning a lesson
Mr Straw said it was about "public order, public safety and, above all, ensuring a free flow of petrol into our economy and our society."

He said the task force would consider arrangements within oil companies for co-ordination and crisis management.

He defended the way the government had handled the fuel crisis, but conceded there were many lessons to be learned.

The rising cost of crude oil had been largely responsible for the current fuel prices, he added.

The protesters have not left their blockades without a warning, however. They said they want a cut in fuel tax within 60 days.

Essential users

Motorists are being warned they could still face a wait of up to two weeks for petrol, despite the lifting of nearly all the blockades at UK refineries on Thursday.

Oil companies spent Friday concentrating deliveries on fuel stations designated as priority outlets by the government.

This number was increased from 2,500 to 3,300 - 298 of which are for essential users only.


Click here for a list of essential services allowed emergency fuel supplies.


Elsewhere in Europe, protests against petrol price increases have spread, with demonstrators bringing Spain's second-largest city Barcelona to a standstill.

And protests are continuing to affect Europe. Blockades were also taking place in Ireland, Poland, Germany and the Netherlands.

Fuel helplines
General public
08456 071071
Essential users
0345 345005

In Hungary, hauliers threatened "radical" protests after the Hungarian oil and gas company, MOL, said it would raise wholesale gasoline prices by 2.7% and diesel prices by 5.4%.

But Belgium was largely back to normal on Friday, after lorry drivers ended five days of protests against high fuel costs that had brought the country nearly to a halt.

Protesters in the Philippines, who tried to emulate their European counterparts, were thwarted in the capital Manila when riot police prevented a blockade of petrol depots.

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See also:

15 Sep 00 | Europe
Europe fuel crisis escalates
15 Sep 00 | Business
BA to raise fares
15 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Task force to tackle protests threat
15 Sep 00 | Education
School closures worsen in fuel crisis
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