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2000: UK fuel protesters go back home

The fuel protests which have paralysed Britain for seven days, causing a crisis in the NHS, emptying supermarkets shelves and closing schools, have ended.

The last major action was in Carmarthen, Wales, where a convoy of lorries paraded through the town centre to enthusiastic support from the public.

The protests ended with an ultimatum from truckers: they are demanding the government cut fuel duties within 60 days, or they will attempt to bring the country to its knees yet again.

But the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has hinted he will listen to the truckers' concerns - despite a firm statement at the beginning of the crisis he would not give into blockades and pickets.

It is expected to take up to 14 days for some areas of the country to recover completely, as only 26% of petrol stations have adequate supplies of fuel.

Many garages are still rationing, and others are limiting their supplies to emergency vehicles and medical personnel only.

But there has been little public irritation despite the long queues.

Mr Blair has ordered the formation of a new task force of oil executives and police officers to work out how to deal with any future demonstrations.


"We've got them on the rack, let's keep them on the rack"

Protesting truck driver

Home Secretary Jack Straw - who is to head the group - admitted the government had not been fully prepared for the events of the last week.

"We were not caught on the hop about the concerns - it is certainly the case, however, that the scale and escalation of the protest was something which was unexpected," he said.

But one truck driver, encouraged by the widespread public support of this protest, promised more chaos if fuel prices do not fall.

"We could have brought this country down - we've got them on the rack, let's keep them on the rack," he told colleagues.

In Context
The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, offered concessions to the fuel protestors in his pre-budget report in November 2000.

Fuel duty was frozen until 2002 and a cut of 3p per litre on ultra low sulphur petrol was announced.

It was not enough to appease many truck drivers and they embarked on another "go-slow" protest drive from north-east England to London.

But the convoy dwindled quickly and the protest never gathered as much support as it did in September.


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