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Thursday, 2 November, 2000, 07:15 GMT
Warning on fuel protest dangers
A second fuel protest could bankrupt companies, cause job losses and create severe problems for hospitals, Home Secretary Jack Straw will warn on Thursday.

A government assessment of September's action has found that jobs were threatened, businesses lost orders and public services were stretched to breaking point when fuel supplies were interrupted.

In a statement to the Commons Mr Straw is also expected to outline guidance given to police forces to keep roads and refineries open, in the event of another fuel crisis.

Police are prepared to deal with demonstrations
Protesters have threatened to take to the streets again to force a cut in fuel duty, as the 14 November deadline for action they set approaches.

Prime Minister Tony Blair told MPs on Wednesday that big cuts in fuel duty would see the worst-off suffer, while Tory leader William Hague accused the government of being responsible for the biggest rise in fuel taxes in UK history.

Fuel protesters have predicted that 25,000 lorries could converge on London for a mass rally should taxes not be cut.

Meanwhile, petrol companies have reported high levels of sales, but denied reports of panic buying.

Police preparations

Speaking during prime minister's questions, Mr Hague said fuel tax had risen from 46p to 61p a litre since Labour came to office.

The prime minister said the government would do what it could for the haulage industry, but any cuts in fuel duty could not be made at the expense of pensioners or money for public services.

On November 14 we are going to London and we are going to stay in London

David Handley, PFL
Treasury minister Stephen Timms said the 26.2p cut in fuel duties demanded by the protesters would cost 11.8bn, result in economic instability, and force up inflation and interest rates.

Ministers and the police said their preparations against a fresh fuel blockade which could hit in mid-November were well in hand.

Mr Blair said he expected the police to deal with any law-breaking by demonstrators "quickly and decisively," and the Association of Chief Police officers said it was "ready for anything".

Capital faces 25,000 lorry demo

David Handley, chairman of the People's Fuel Lobby (PFL), said he expected up to 25,000 lorries to converge on London on 14 November if large tax cuts were not announced in next week's pre-Budget report.

He told a meeting in Kent: "On November 14 we are going to London and we are going to stay in London and we want every single person in this country who cares about the fuel tax situation to be there."

He said the protests would be supported by hauliers, farmers and even fishermen.

The group is seeking a 26.2p a litre cut in diesel duty, but has said it would be happy with a 15p cut as a first step to achieving parity with fuel costs in Europe.

As the car parts retailers Halfords reported a 500% increase in the purchase of petrol storage cans, petrol retailers have played down reports of panic buying as the public prepares for a possible second blockade.

A BP spokesman said: "We are experiencing heavier than normal sales at some service stations.

"But there is no problem with deliveries and there certainly is no need for people to panic buy. It's only if people start panic buying that we will have problems," he said.

And a Shell spokesman said that although demand was high, it was the same on the corresponding days last year as people filled up after half-term.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's June Kelly
"The public seem to be ignoring warnings not to panic"
Freight Transport Association's Geoff Dossiter
"We are the only country that charges the same rates for diesel as it does for petrol"
People's Fuel Lobby's David Handley
"We have been forced into a corner"

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31 Oct 00 | Politics
02 Nov 00 | Scotland
31 Oct 00 | Politics
31 Oct 00 | Politics
30 Oct 00 | Politics
01 Nov 00 | Politics
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