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The BBC's Caroline Thomsett
"The police are already taking a tough line"
 real 56k

Friday, 10 November, 2000, 04:39 GMT
Fuel convoy heads for capital

Hundreds of protesters are due to set off in convoy from Tyneside on Friday to petition the government about fuel tax.

A large convoy of heavy goods and farm vehicles will stage a "go slow" demonstration through several cities before arriving in London on Tuesday.


It is not our intention to cause disruption to members of the public

John Coxon, People's Fuel Lobby
The People's Fuel Lobby is expecting up to 100 lorries to gather near Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, for the demonstration against high fuel taxes, with hundreds more supporters set to join en route.

The demonstration is to go ahead despite Chancellor Gordon Brown's 1bn hand-out for the haulage industry in his pre-Budget speech on Wednesday.

Environmental groups Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, who believe fuel taxes need to be kept high to discourage excessive car usage, have both promised counter protests along the convoy's route.

Legal action

The convoy will be prevented from entering the flood-hit city of York by North Yorkshire Police.

A notice has been issued under Section 12 of the Public Order Act, giving senior officers the power to determine the route which should be taken by demonstrators.

Fuel portesters
Fuel protesters say Mr Brown has not done enough

A handful of fuel protesters who left Berwick-on-Tweed for Gateshead on Thursday were issued with a letter from Northumbria police advising them on how to protest within the law.

John Coxon, a North East committee member with the People's Fuel Lobby (PFL), said organisers had fully co-operated with police about the route and nature of the demonstration.

He said: "It is not our intention to cause disruption to members of the public, although some disruption will be inevitable."

Five day journey

The convoy is setting off from the outskirts of Gateshead at 0900 GMT after being joined by a small contingent of tractors from Jarrow, 10 miles away.

The symbolism of Jarrow - starting point for a march of unemployed workers in the 1920s - has not been lost on the government.

It is due to take a route around nearby Newcastle before rejoining the A1(M) and making its way south to Leeds in the afternoon.

Fuel protestors
A few protesters caused tailbacks on Thursday
It will then head for Manchester on Saturday; Stoke and Birmingham on Sunday; Northampton and Milton Keynes on Monday; before reaching London on Tuesday for a mass rally.

A similar protest by Scottish protesters will get underway on Monday, arriving in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

Greens' alternative protest

Environmental group volunteers will also travel from Tyneside to London in vans and an articulated lorry to make the case for higher fuel taxes.

All the vehicles will be powered by green fuels such as compressed gas and bio-diesel made from vegetable oils.

Greenpeace policy director Stephen Tindale said: "We believe that Gordon Brown was wrong to reduce the cost of oil-based petrol and diesel because of the impact they have on climatic change."

On Wednesday Mr Brown sought to placate the fuel protesters by freezing duty on petrol and cutting duty on green fuels, but stopped short of delivering the 26p a litre cut lorry drivers and farmers had been hoping for.

Disappointed with cuts

Following the announcement, David Handley, chairman of the People's Fuel Lobby, told the BBC: "It is not the cut we were looking for, it's not a cut right across the board."

Cuts on duty on the more environmentally friendly ultra-low sulphur petrol and diesel of up to 3p a litre would take some time to filter down to the average motorist, Mr Handley said.

Oil refinery blockade
The September blockades caused nationwide chaos
But the government says the new fuel should be available for motorists across the UK within the next few months, with the chancellor hoping it will account for 100% of petrol and diesel sales by next year.

The convoy follows a 60-day moratorium laid down by the protesters after the September oil refinery blockades.

Last time the fuel protesters demonstrated in the capital there was traffic chaos, and their nationwide blockades brought much of the country to a standstill.

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See also:

09 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Brown's gifts fail to placate protesters
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07 Nov 00 | UK Politics
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