Call for weekly boycott as petrol hits £1 a litre

Government under pressure as drivers' anger grows at being ripped off
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A website calling for a nation-wide petrol boycott was modified last night because its two operators, both full-time salesmen, have been "overwhelmed" by the interest in their campaign against increasing fuel taxes.

A website calling for a nation-wide petrol boycott was modified last night because its two operators, both full-time salesmen, have been "overwhelmed" by the interest in their campaign against increasing fuel taxes.

The visitor count to www.boycott-the-pumps.com, which was set up on 2 June, had reached 82,194 by 4pm yesterday.

Chris Longhurst, 30, from Bracknell, Berkshire and his colleague, Neil Woodier, 35, from Godalming, Surrey, said they had taken their e-mail address offline "for a day or two" because they did not have enough time to monitor it. They said they had been overwhelmed by the interest in their "dump the pump" campaign, both from the media and from consumers.

"It has now been proven, despite not boycotting anything yet, that our message is getting through," they said yesterday.

The website urges motorists to boycott forecourts on 1 August - a Tuesday - and repeat the exercise every Monday until taxes on fuel are reduced.

The Road Haulage Association, the Association of British Motorists and the Federation of Small Businesses all offered their support of the boycott. The hauliers have suspended their own day of action, originally planned for next month, because the Treasury has invited them to talks on petrol taxation.

Petrol prices have risen by 18p a litre in the past year and have risen three times in three weeks - ostensibly because of an increase in the price of crude oil.

At some garages, the price of petrol has crashed through the £1 a litre barrier.

In Ireland, the average price of unleaded petrol is 53p a litre, in Spain 52p, Germany 61p and France 69p.

The cost in the United States is about 27p.

In Britain, 84 per cent of the price of petrol is for fuel duty and value added tax - far higher than in most other countries.

According to the AA, the owner of a Ford Mondeo now pays more than £50 to fill his vehicle, compared with £39 in December 1998 and about £25 a decade ago.

Together with the rise in insurance premiums, the cost of using a petrol-driven car is 8 per cent higher than last year - far outstripping inflation.

The website says: "Spread the word and force the Government to listen. For once, let's stand up with a unified voice and make them understand that we will no longer be quietly steamrollered into a transport system that's crumbling under our feet whilst we pay for it through the nose.

"Tell them you have had enough of rip-off Britain.

"The Government are bleeding motorists dry. Why? Because they can.

"As long as public apathy continues, and we keep paying ludicrous prices for our petrol, the Government will keep laying on the tax."

The organisers said they recognised that motorists could not boycott petrol indefinitely but said they believed that by concentrating on specific days they can maximise the impact of the campaign. A similar campaign in the American Midwest last year resulted in swift price cuts.

But Friends of the Earth urged the Government to resist calls for cuts in petrol prices, arguing that more of the revenue raised should be spent on public transport.

Tony Bosworth, the group's transport campaigner, said that while many people might want cheaper motoring, cutting fuel prices would worsen congestion and pollution. "The Government must stand firm on its commitment to tackle global climate change, the biggest environmental threat facing the world," Mr Bosworth said.

"Increases in fuel taxes, along with incentives to buy more fuel-efficient cars, are an essential part of this. But more of the money raised should be spent on effective alternatives to the car, such as better trains and buses."

The pressure group calculates that income from a 1 per cent rise in fuel prices would pay for a flat-rate 70p bus fare nationwide or provide "safe routes" to 10 per cent of the nation's schools.

William Hague told the Prime Minister on Wednesday that motorists would exact a high price at the next election for the increasing taxation.

Mr Bosworth said: "The attitude of the Tories is breathtaking. They introduced above-inflation petrol tax rises, so for them to condemn what the Government is doing is hypocrisy of the first order."

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