Armed Forces on standby to beat fuel tax protesters
By Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent
Talks today on secret plan as New York oil prices near record levels.
THE Government has drawn up secret plans to prevent a repeat of the 2000 fuel revolt as oil prices reach record highs. Emergency powers will be used to detain protesters and the Armed Forces will be sent in to maintain supplies.
Ringleaders of the protests that brought the country to a halt four years ago have given warning of a new campaign to disrupt supplies unless Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, cancels a planned rise in fuel duty due in September.
Contingency plans will be discussed today at a meeting at the Department of Trade and Industry attended by intelligence officials, key government departments and fuel industry representatives. They will be told of industry predictions that the record oil prices could force up the price of petrol close to 90p a litre by next month, well above the level that triggered the protests in 2000. Oil traded in New York at $41.10 last night, 5 cents short of its record price.
Oil prices have risen more than 25 per cent since the start of the year because of the rapid increase in energy consumption among industrialised nations and explosive economic growth in China. The risk of possible terrorist disruption to supplies has also influenced the market.
The contingency plans include invoking emergency powers to break blockades of oil refineries by removing anyone occupying access roads. Tankers will be commandeered and driven by the Armed Forces. The intelligence services have compiled dossiers on 200 key people who took part in protests and are monitoring their activities.
In the event of shortages, essential users, including emergency services, health workers and supermarket supply chains, will be given priority. Ministers are determined to avoid a repeat of panic-buying of food, in which supermarket shelves were emptied.
The strategy for controlling fuel purchases by motorists has changed after the failure of the rationing system used last time. Drivers managed to circumvent the £10 maximum rule introduced at most filling stations by repeatedly queueing on different forecourts.
During any future protest, retailers will be ordered to set a minimum purchase of £35-£40 so that only cars with almost empty tanks attempt to buy fuel. People will be prevented from filling spare cans.
A source involved in drawing up the contingency plans said: The key objective is to take control from the beginning of any protest rather than, like last time, allowing it to creep up on us. We have to act before panic sets in and causes a national emergency.
Fuel shortages took hold quickly in 2000 as panic- buying drained supplies. The blockades were called off after the Government agreed to talk to the haulage industry about cutting road taxes.
Brynle Williams, a North Wales farmer who became a Conservative member of the Welsh Assembly after helping to organise the action, said that new protests were a distinct possibility.
David Handley, the chairman of Farmers for Action and another ringleader, said that the trigger for action would be the planned duty increase of 1.9p per litre. He said that if the Chancellor suspended the increase it would help to moderate anger over fuel taxes, which represent almost three quarters of the petrol pump price.
If he doesnt listen to us then I can see a reaction taking place that will be just as serious as in September 2000, Mr Handley said. He refused to comment on how protesters would seek to overcome the contingency measures, but added: There is more than one way to skin a cat.
Ray Holloway, of the Petrol Retailers Association, said that petrol prices would rise sharply in the coming weeks if the price of crude oil remained above $40 a barrel.
There are implications for pump prices about a month ahead. Youre looking at a rise of 6-7p. He added that the average price now was 81p per litre. The protest price in 2000 was 80p a litre thats 85p today with inflation.
Oil industry analysts said that the current high prices could become permanent unless they fell back below the $40 per barrel psychological threshold in the next few days. A report from Barclays Capital bank said: The psychology of the market might change dramatically were prices to stay above $40 for a week or two. If prices are still above $40 in a month, we would not be surprised to see them stay above that level for the rest of the year. Indeed, if $40 sticks then $50 becomes threatened.
The Department of Trade and Industry said that todays meeting had been planned months ago. It is part of an ongoing programme to make sure that our contingency plans are as robust as can be. It is a table-top exercise looking at what we can do if there is disruption to oil supplies.
It seems to me the govt does not like the people of this country to be able to voice their opinions against them!
The problem here is not really the price of oil, it's the insane amount of tax collected by the Scottish Thief so that the Dear Leader can waste yet more money on dead-end policies.
The way to stop protests would be for the government to cancel the next planned rise in fuel duty and announce a temporary reduction in fuel duty to prevent prices at the pump going above a preset level.
Instead, New Labour, the party of the people, will act in a heavy handed way, and increase the overstretch already being suffered by both the police and the armed forces. This will, of course, cost a huge amount of money. Other costs will include confidence in the police (already stressed due to NL's speed camera policies and failure to deal with crime), being further eroded and worse retention in the armed forces.
I predict that CDS' spine will be elastic enough for him to be still in line for his peerage etc.
The only bright point is that it will be a further nail in New Labour's coffin.
If it was the price of oil why are the spams paying $1.90 a gallon (about £1.10) to our £0.82 a litre? Even allowing for economies of scale of production, volume turnover etc, that's still more than 3 times less than us in comparison. Over £0.67 goes to the tax man for every litre of fuel we buy. For what? The roads are sh1te and we pay a road fund licence that has gone up again to further bolster the coffers for an infrastructure that fails. The only time I manage to get an easy jounrey on the motorway is when I pay £2 for the M6 Toll, and even then it's crawling with traffic police with nothng better to do that trap mostorists who they think can afford the fines because they pay for the privilidge of using a road my car tax already paid for once over!
According to a recent poll of European states, the UK spend the least amount out of the revenue collect from its Road Fund Tax, a mere 5%. What is the rest used for? Not giving us a decent raise and proping up the welfare state.
The USA have something called the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) it can hold a maximum of 700 million barrels of oil. This was set up in the late 70s after the oil embargo of 73-74. The US are currently buying lots of oil, firstly they use about 25% of the world daily production on a daily basis and they are trying to fill the SPR. More buyers mean higher prices.
Also in China they are having a mini industrial boom, they are also heavily buying oil, again forcing the price up.
Lots of the oil infrastructure is fairly vulnerable at present. Any attacks on these structures causes a supply problem and this again causes prices to rise.
The talk at the moment is for 90p per litre before too long and also a price of $50 per barrel.