Protesters say fight for cheap fuel continues

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Indy Politics

Fuel protesters pledged last night to continue campaigns of direct action despite attempts by Gordon Brown to appease them with a raft of fuel and tax cuts.

Fuel protesters pledged last night to continue campaigns of direct action despite attempts by Gordon Brown to appease them with a raft of fuel and tax cuts.

Leaders of the hauliers, farmers and trawlermen, who brought much of Britain to a standstill in September with blockades of oil refineries, claimed last night the Chancellor of the Exchequer's measures did not fully meet their demands. Clive Swan, one of the original protest leaders at the Stanlow refinery, said the protests would go ahead through the winter after the 60-day deadline had expired: "The issue the Chancellor has not addressed is that the great British public is paying for everything through the fuel tank. We are not going to let the British public down in their hour of need," he said

Mr Swan, a farmer from Mold, north Wales, is aligned with protest leader Brynle Williams' and is not part of the People's Fuel Lobby led by Welsh farmer David Handley.

The People's Fuel Lobby appeared last night to be in a state of some confusion as to what Gordon Brown's statement amounted to. A meeting at an unnamed hotel close to the junction of the M6, near Walsall, was meant to decide whether or not the protests that brought large parts of Britain to a halt earlier this year would be repeated. In the end the hauliers - representing lorry drivers from across the country - went home as confused and dissatisfied as when they arrived.

Last night, Mark Francis, vice-chairman of the PFL, said the proposed Jarrow Rally, in which truckers would travel from the North-east to London, was still due to go ahead, starting this Friday and arriving in the capital on 14 November. That decision could change at a meeting of the body's national committee expected to take place today.

"I appeal for everybody in the country to remain calm and to think about [the Chanellor's] announcement," said Mr Francis. "I feel he has given some gestures and we need a little more time to think about what he has said. "I ask everybody: If you are not happy with the outcome, please do not start back or take any steps or get involved in any action until everybody has had a little more time to let it sink in. We are gentlemen. We will uphold the 60-day agreement. If you move within the 60 days you do not have any PFL backing." Earlier, Mr Francis said that regardless of the Chancellor's decision there would be no PFL protests in the "near future", claiming that the Jarrow Rally was not a protest.

But the PFL is clearly not a body whose members always speak from the same script and it was clear the mood among some of the hauliers yesterday was less measured.

Stuart Tomlins, whose family has owned a haulage business in Shrewsbury dating back to 1928, said: "I am very disappointed. The cut in tax might sound like a lot but we need cheaper fuel. I don't think he has listened to what he has been told. It is the price of fuel per litre which really matters."

Bob Manning, from Sudbury, Suffolk, said the 200 hauliers he represented were not entirely happy but were unlikely to get involved in further protests at the moment. "They are more interested in trying to get their own MP elected so that we can be represented that way."

In a direct attempt to placate farmers, the Chancellor also abolished excise duty for tractors and other agricultural vehicles. The haulage industry was also offered a £100m fund to help modernise fleets and introduce new technologies.