Memo will stop more fuel protests

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A nationaL "memorandum of understanding" aimed at preventing disruption to fuel supplies was agreed yesterday as it emerged that hundreds of independent garages in rural Britain face possible closure.

A nationaL "memorandum of understanding" aimed at preventing disruption to fuel supplies was agreed yesterday as it emerged that hundreds of independent garages in rural Britain face possible closure.

The memorandum, signed by the police and both sides of the oil industry, commits the signatories to work together to ensure the supply of oil in case of further fuel protests.

The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, who convened the fuel supply taskforce, which agreed the declaration, said the plan could not guarantee supplies but would reduce the risk of another crisis.

Protesters who blockaded Britain's oil refineries earlier this month have given the Government a 60-day deadline to cut fuel taxes, or face more disruption. The deadline is due to run out on 13 November.

Some of the key elements of the memorandum are still unknown, although the package is said to include an early warning system that would alert the authorities to any threat of protests.

Meanwhile, big oil companies are charging small rural garages extra for petrol and forcing them out of business, according to industry leaders.

Under pressure from the public and the Government, the multinationals are keeping prices down at their own pumps but making privately owned garages pay an extra 4p a litre for unleaded petrol, and 6p more for diesel, says the Petrol Retailers' Association.

Ray Holloway, its director, said 600 small garage owners could go into liquidation by Christmas as a result of "two-tier" pricing. He added that filling stations under most pressure were in the Midlands, the West Country and the Welsh and Scottish borders.

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