Opposition support for Shell boycott

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Environment Correspondent

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats yesterday supported a customer boycott of Shell petrol because of the company's insistence on dumping the Brent Spar in the north-east Atlantic.

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Matthew Taylor told the Independent: "Shell is going for the cheapest disposal option in dumping at sea. But the consumers have it in their hands to make this more expensive for Shell - one of the best ways to put pressure on the company is not to buy its petrol."

Labour's environment spokesman, Frank Dobson, was slightly more cautious. "If people want to make their protest by refusing to buy Shell petrol, that's quite understandable," he said. "But what's needed is action by the UK government - we shouldn't have to resort to boycotting Shell."

He said the Department of Trade and Industry should revoke its authorisation for sea dumping and insist that the 14,500-ton redundant oil storage buoy be brought ashore and scrapped.

Yesterday Greenpeace claimed it had picketed 94 Shell stations around Britain on Saturday, with many motorists deciding not to buy petrol. Shell UK said there had been protests at fewer than 10. Both sides accused the other of lying.

Meanwhile, the pilot of a Greenpeace-chartered helicopter which dodged water cannons to drop two activists on board the Brent Spar may face prosecution, the Civil Aviation Authority said last night. Officials are studying video footage which allegedly shows the aircraft not displaying registration markings. They are also expected to investigate whether lives were put at risk when the helicopter flew under water jets fired from standby vessels surrounding the Spar on Friday.

Greenpeace, however, said it was taking legal advice over possible action against Shell. A spokeswoman said Greenpeace was "outraged" at the oil company's use of water canons.

She said: "It appears the water canons were not just forming a protective curtain, but were trained on the helicopter as it flew around the Spar. Obviously this is highly irresponsible and dangerous and we are currently taking legal advice over the possibility of action against Shell."

Shell UK yesterday insisted it would still be sinking the Brent Spar because it was the best disposal option on environmental, human safety and cost grounds. The structure was still under tow by two tugs last night, proceeding at two knots towards the 6,000ft-deep dump site 150 miles north- west of the Outer Hebrides. It is expected to arrive on Wednesday.

The two activists who were landed on the Spar were still aboard yesterday.

and more supplies had been dropped to them.

Today the Solo, Greenpeace's most powerful ship, is due to leave Stornaway in the Outer Hebrides for the dump site. It will be joining the Altair, a chartered pilot ship which Greenpeace has been using to shadow the Spar since it left Shell's Brent field, north-east of Shetland, eight days ago.