Hauliers take fuel protest to Downing St

Scores of hauliers today took their fuel-price protest to the centre of the capital and to the steps of Downing Street.

Travelling from many parts of the country, the lorry drivers lined a specially-closed section of the A40.

Many left their cabs to attend a rally at Marble Arch before a delegation handed in a letter at 10 Downing Street urging Prime Minister Gordon Brown to save the haulage industry by reducing the duty on diesel.

As the peaceful protest - involving around 300 lorries - took place, Chancellor Alistair Darling was under mounting pressure to ditch controversial proposals to increase road tax on gas guzzling cars.

And House of Commons Transport Committee chairman Louise Ellman led MPs' calls for something to be done about prices, although she warned that decisions should not be based "on protests from any one sector".

Some of the hauliers set out in the early hours to take their protest to the capital with some coming from as far away as Shropshire.

The first arrived at their appointed position on the A40 in west London around 10am and others were still arriving two hours later.

Kent-based haulier Peter Carroll, who was one of those handing in the Downing Street letter said the Government was being urged to put the haulage industry into the essential user rebate category, and that 20p-25p should be taken off diesel duty.

Mr Carroll continued: "We hear a lot about the Government wanting to steer the economy through difficult times. Well, one of the biggest ways of steering an economy through difficult times is to cut fuel duty.

"I believe that if Gordon Brown was to pass a drowning man, he would help. To all intents and purposes our industry is a drowning man.

"I plead with the Government to take note of this industry and to listen. I say to the Government that you have the lifeline. All you have to do is use that lifeline to save a fantastic industry that does good for Britain."

One of the first to arrive in London for the protest was John Davis, 49, from Grays, Essex, who is a driver with the Clearserve truck company based at Tilbury, Essex.

A member of the Territorial Army who has served in Iraq with the Royal Signals, Mr Davis said: "Prices have got out of hand and the consumer will eventually pay the price because food costs will rise.

"I think this is a good time to protest. People are feeling the pinch and it's up to the Government to step in and help out where it can. Every time the fuel goes up, tax revenue goes up with it."

Shadow chancellor George Osborne said the Government should perform a U-turn on vehicle excise duty (VED), while more than 30 Labour MPs have signed a Commons motion expressing concern at the retrospective change to VED bans which will affect all cars bought since 2001.

Labour MP Ronnie Campbell, who tabled the motion, said the proposals were unfair.

Business Secretary John Hutton said Mr Darling was listening to what was being said, adding: "We are trying to get this balance right between encouraging choices to go green but not hammering people."

Justice Secretary Jack Straw said he understood lorry drivers' worries and added that Mr Darling and Mr Brown were "listening to public concerns". Mr Straw dismissed any suggestion that Mr Brown's job was under threat.

Mrs Ellman said the price of fuel was a concern, while other MPs warned that some haulage firms might have to close and that the Government should scrap plans to increase fuel duty by 2p as planned this October.

In addition to the demonstration in London, about 100 lorries took part in a fuel protest on the M4 in Wales.

Dave Lasky, of Bob Gay Plant Hire, Llantwit Fardre, Pontypridd, Mid Glamorgan, said: "I wanted to come today because I'm only 24 and it's affecting me more than the older guys. I've got other bills to pay, and I've to pay for my car.

"Something has to be done or I will lose my job.

"I find it disgusting there are so many police here today when so many crimes are going on in the area. This is a peaceful protest."

Later, speaking in Cambridge, Mr Hutton said future generations would pay the price if the Government did not face up to its climate change responsibilities.

He said the Government was right to use tax to encourage motorists to drive greener cars.

He added: "Measures will be needed to help those most at risk of fuel poverty because going green cannot mean going without. But there will be a bigger price to pay if we do nothing."

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