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The BBC's Stephen Evans
"What they call the new Jarrow crusade"
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Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 09:06 GMT
Fuel blockaders threaten go-slow
Queues at petrol pumps
Petrol stations ran dry last month as blockades bit
Organisers of last month's blockade of fuel depots have announced lorry drivers will stage a four day slow-moving convoy on Britain's roads if their demands for lower fuel taxes are not met.

The tactic was decided at a meeting in Cheshire on Monday night, hours after government warnings that there was no scope for large cuts in fuel duty.

Ministers said reducing the tax to help motorists and hauliers would only lead to higher interest rates.

The government has also stepped up preparations for a repeat of September's blockades by authorising the training of troops to drive petrol tankers.

Last month blockades and pickets brought the country close to a standstill and the 60-day deadline protesters gave the government to cut taxes expires in two weeks.

'Knee-jerk reaction'

If Chancellor Gordon Brown fails to satisfy campaigners with next week's pre-budget statement on fuel prices, leaders of the action said they would stage a modern day "Jarrow crusade" travelling from Tyneside to London.

It would travel through towns and cities and arrive in the capital on 14 November, the day after the 60 day deadline expires.

Fuel protesters
Protesters brought the country to a standstill
The plans were announced at a public meeting called by the Peoples Fuel Lobby in Chelford, Cheshire.

Nearly 150 hauliers, farmers and their supporters listened to protest leaders set out their plans for further action.

Chairman of the People's Fuel Lobby (PFL), David Hanley, said ministers should talk to him and not plan for military involvement.

"It is a knee-jerk reaction from this government," he said.


"It would be far better that they implemented tax-payers' money into meeting the actual demands of protesters and getting this matter resolved."

He also denied tanker drivers were intimidated during the previous protests into refusing to drive their vehicles, but chose not to drive them out of sympathy for the protesters.

Mark Francis of the PFL said it would be unacceptable to utilitise "force and muscle" to prevent people "expressing their views".

He said his organisation would be willing to talk to government even if that did not happen until very end of the 60-day deadline.

He also said the government was far from united over its policy on fuel duty and predicted a resumption of direct action if fuel tax concessions were not granted.

The planned protest convoy will set off on Friday 10 November from Jarrow, through Newcastle to York and on the following day travel through Leeds to Manchester.

On Sunday 12 November it will drive to Stoke, Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

On the following day it will move through Northampton to Milton Keynes and drive into London to join the mass protest on the Tuesday.

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See also:

23 Oct 00 | Business
CBI urges Brown to cut fuel tax
18 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Fuel protesters threaten mass rally
13 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Brown 'offers fuel concessions'
05 Oct 00 | Conservatives
Blair ridiculed over fuel crisis
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