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The BBC's June Kelly
"The public seem to be ignoring warnings not to panic"
 real 56k

Freight Transport Association's Geoff Dossiter
"We are the only country that charges the same rates for diesel as it does for petrol"
 real 28k

People's Fuel Lobby's David Handley
"We have been forced into a corner"
 real 28k

Thursday, 2 November, 2000, 11:36 GMT
Straw's blockade battle plan

Home Secretary Jack Straw is preparing to detail government plans to tackle a second wave of fuel blockades.

Campaigners are calling for a 26.2p per litre cut in fuel duty and have threatened to blockade London with up to 25,000 lorries should their demands be ignored.

Mr Straw's statement in the Commons comes as the oil company Shell has announced record profits due to the high price of oil.

Pressure is also mounting on the fuel protesters to drop their plans for direct action as unions, haulage associations and the Conservatives all voice their concern.

Threat to the economy

The home secretary is expected to tell MPs that a second fuel protest - scheduled for mid-November - could bankrupt companies, cause job losses and create severe problems for hospitals.

The right way to settle an argument over tax in a democracy is through the ballot box

William Hague
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.

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.

Unions angry at protesters

Pressure on the fuel protesters to call off their blockade as their 60-day deadline approaches is also being applied by unions.

Unison angrily denied claims that it was supporting a march through London on 14 November, to coincide with the blockade deadline.

And union officials also claimed to have no knowledge of claims made by the chairman of the People's Fuel Lobby what car workers are planning to join their campaign.

'Lives at risk'

Unison said the protesters were "putting people's lives at risk".

"We think they should call off their plans. They will only pile more misery on to people already battered by storms, floods and huge transport problems."

We have been forced into a corner

David Hanley
While sympathetic to the call for a cut in fuel duty, Tory leader William Hague is to warn the People's Fuel Lobby: "Protests that involve direct action, that are not peaceful, that are not legal or that cause suffering to hard-working families will rightly lose the support of the public.

"Do not go down that route and do not let the government provoke you into taking it... the right way to settle an argument over tax in a democracy is through the ballot box."

Speaking ahead of Mr Straw's statement, the chairman of the PFL, David Hanley, denied that the blockaders would be holding the country to ransom should the chancellor not deliver fuel tax cuts in next week's pre-Budget statement.

He said the PFL's actions were being undertaken on behalf of all the people of Britain.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We have been forced into a corner and unfortunately, we see that we have a government that is not prepared to listen, indeed not even an honourable government, because the prime minister said if we put forward spokesmen he would meet them.

Blair meeting

"Here we are, two weeks from the deadline and we haven't had that meeting."

But despite Mr Hanley insisting his supporters were peaceful, more than 180 violent incidents were reported during September's first wave of fuel protests.

Speaking for the Freight Transport Association, Geoff Dosseter said his organisation did not support any of the direct action planned by the PFL, although it called for a 15p cut in fuel duty.

He told the BBC: "This is a problem of the government's making.

"The price of duty on diesel is far far too high and we simply must have action to stop that and bring that down," he said.

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31 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Fuel crusade 'insulting'
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Fuel protest battle plan
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Fuel blockaders threaten go-slow
30 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Troops trained to beat blockades
01 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Fuel protesters 'like cornered rats'
01 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Blair mounts fuel offensive
02 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Fuel protesters attack 'profiteering'
02 Nov 00 | Business
Shell posts record profits
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