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Last Updated: Friday, 22 April, 2005, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK
Hauliers threaten poll disruption
Fuel tax protest in 2000
Protesters are threatening to take to the streets on 3 May
Fuel tax protesters are threatening to disrupt the general election with a campaign of oil refinery blockades and go-slows starting on 3 May.

The Fuel Lobby's Andrew Spence said the action would go ahead if the government did not bring down tax on fuel.

Hundreds of hauliers and farmers are to attend a meeting in Stirling, Scotland, to protest against high fuel prices.

A week-long series of protests against rising fuel taxes all but brought the UK to a halt in 2000.

Don't rule anything out - the election would be stopped if we had our way
Andrew Spence
Fuel Lobby

Those protests caused fuel shortages and led to panic buying at the pumps.

On Friday, Mr Spence, a farmer and haulier from Consett, County Durham, warned that the same thing could happen again if the government did not take action.

"Don't rule anything out - the election would be stopped if we had our way," he said.

"Tony Blair will not have enough fuel in his car to get to the polling station."

He said it would be difficult to stop the farmers and road hauliers, who are meeting in Scotland on Friday, from protesting until 3 May.

'Increasingly militant'

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said anger was mounting around the country about "the increasing cost of fuel" and warned its members could be stirred into "legal" action.

Roger King, RHA's chief executive, said meetings had been held in North Wales and Scotland and attitudes were becoming "increasingly militant".

We are paying the highest levels of fuel duty in the world
Road Haulage Association

He said members were meeting to discuss how to develop the protest.

"Whatever we do as an industry, it must be lawful but to the point," he said.

"We recognise that the price of oil is a world problem, but the fact remains that we are paying the highest levels of fuel duty in the world.

"We equally recognise that government has frozen fuel duty for some while now, but this has done little to stem the huge increase in costs hauliers must pay before they receive any return from the customer - even if that customer is paying something towards the extra cost.

"We desperately need some kind of fuel stabilisation formula which would result in tax levels on fuel being reduced as world oil prices increase."

'Sympathetic'

Chancellor Gordon Brown announced a freeze on fuel duty in his pre-budget speech to the Commons in December.

A Labour Party spokesman declined to comment on the threat of demonstrations.

But a Conservative spokesman said: "Fuel tax is likely to be higher under Labour than us because they are going to have to raise taxes to pay for the unsustainable borrowing levels."

A Liberal Democrat spokesman said the party was "obviously sympathetic" with the hauliers' cause, but added: "We don't think punishing other innocent road users and businesses will help."

Lib Dems would replace fuel duty and vehicle excise duty with a revenue neutral charging system based on where a vehicle was travelling and when.

A meeting on Wednesday night in Ruthin in North Wales to protest at the prices was attended by more than 200 hauliers, farmers, construction workers and taxi drivers.

Meeting organiser Dai Owen said he would wait for the outcome of Friday's meeting in Scotland before deciding his next move but that he had no intention of using "bully boy" tactics.



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