UK:Massive queues continue : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Saturday, 16 September, 2000, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK Garages besieged as Brown stands firm

Fuel shortages could last for up to a fortnight

Massive queues have been building up at petrol stations across Britain as oil companies step up efforts to restock supplies. But the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, has reinforced his determination not to make a short-term cut in petrol duty.

Brown: "We are listening"

The government plans to send a team of ministers across Britain to spread the message that spending on public services will not be sacrificed for the demands of fuel protesters who brought chaos to the country over the past week.

Mr Brown told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that although he understood people wanted lower fuel prices he did not believe they wanted government to make decisions in the short-term.

"We are listening ... I will report in the pre-Budget report and we will then have decisions in the normal Budget process.

"But we won't make decisions as a result of blockades and we won't break from the long-term and balanced approach that we are taking to these issues of both public services and taxation."

Despite increasing numbers of garages re-opening for business there were warnings it could be a fortnight before supplies return to normal.

Some motorists are resorting to chasing tankers to see where fuel is being delivered.

Oil companies said all the government's priority garages had been re-stocked but a BP spokesman warned: "It's going to be a week or two before we're back to normal."

A hotel in Cumbria's Lake District has offered to "queue bust" for guests with staff taking their cars to be filled up while customers relax.

Alternative wedding transport for Patricia Mountney

Bride-to-be Patricia Mountney, 52, booked her brother's electric-powered milk float as her wedding carriage after her plan to hire a luxury limousine fell victim to fuel shortages in Birmingham.

And Britain is still suffering other knock-on effects of the crisis which almost brought it to a standstill.

Supermarkets are appealing for people not to panic-buy and prolong shortages of essential foods and there are fears of further petrol price rises after the cost of crude oil rose again on Friday.

The cost to business of the protests was put at #1bn by the Institute of Directors, and many schools are expected to remain shut at least until Tuesday.

-- Martin Thompson (, September 16, 2000


Petrol supplies still sparse "The trouble is, as soon as deliveries are made, the stations run dry again. The tankers are being followed for miles by queues of motorists desperate to see where the fuel is being delivered" - Shell spokesman A quarter of filling stationsare now open but the industry has warned it could be two weeks before supplies were back to normal.

Refuelled petrol stations were soon running dry as queues of drivers laid siege to forecourts all over the country.

There are fears that a rush to buy food could lead to shortages in supermarkets - and that further petrol price rises could be imminent after the price of crude oil rose again yesterday.

The cost to business of the week of pickets of oil refineries in protest at high fuel prices was put at #1 billion.

Scores of schools are expected to remain shut at least until Tuesday.

Although oil companies have been ferrying fuel to priority service stations, oil companies said it could be two weeks before motorists were able to fill up without queuing.

The Government hotline set up to help essential users find supplies was expected to receive up to a million calls this weekend.

By the end of Friday, oil companies were on course to have made deliveries to 3,300 filling stations designated as a priority by the Government.

But a Shell spokesman said: "The trouble is, as soon as deliveries are made, the stations run dry again. The tankers are being followed for miles by queues of motorists desperate to see where the fuel is being delivered."

Welsh First Secretary Rhodri Morgan issued a stark warning that the panic buying of fuel last weekend could be repeated this weekend with food, adding that the situation in Wales was "absolutely critical".

The fuel crisis will have cost businesses #1 billion - the equivalent of #40 per household - by the time it has ended, the Institute of Directors warned.

Meanwhile, the taskforce charged with preventing the fuel crisis happening again met with a mixed response from MPs.

Chaired by Home Secretary Jack Straw, it is made up of senior oil executives, ministers and police officers who will examine ways of safeguarding supplies.

Mr Straw said his taskforce was about "public order, public safety and above all ensuring a free flow of petrol into our economy and our society". But civil liberties campaigners warned that any new legislation giving the Government rights to intervene or force the police to take action would be likely to violate the Human Rights Act.

Tory leader William Hague said the blockades may be ending but a broader "taxpayers' revolt" was just beginning.

Meanwhile, there was anger at figures obtained by the GMB union showing that nine executives at oil companies BP Amoco and Shell received rises of at least 35 per cent last year.

The top pay rise at BP Amoco was 65 per cent , while at Shell it was 58 per cent , according to the research, described as representing new levels of "greed".

Increasingly embattled oil chiefs took the opportunity yesterday to deny they had colluded with the protesters during the blockades.

Chris Gibson-Smith, managing director of BP, said oil companies and protesters were "never in cahoots".

He said: "There never was an issue of collusion. It was always about our drivers' safety and public safety.Crossing a picket line takes courage. Crossing a picket line driving 5,000 gallons of gasoline is far more than courage, it is about wisdom as well."

-- Martin Thompson (, September 16, 2000.

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