Protests fuelled by price hikes

LONDON - Motorists, hauliers and farmers staged protests across Britain on Saturday against record petrol and diesel prices, but a poor turn-out saw some demonstrations called off.

LONDON - Motorists, hauliers and farmers staged protests across Britain on Saturday against record petrol and diesel prices, but a poor turn-out saw some demonstrations called off.

The group Transaction 2007 had organised demonstrations outside oil refineries in a string of locations over the government's refusal to cut fuel duty.

Almost two-thirds of the cost of petrol and diesel is made up of tax, which is set to rise by 28c a litre in April.

But, while small bands of protesters turned up at arranged meeting points, plans to picket some refineries were abandoned because of a lack of numbers.

In Scotland, a convoy of about 30 trucks travelled along major roads as planned.

Despite the low turn-out, organisers said they were not disappointed and that the demonstrations should still be viewed as a warning to the government.

Cardiff protest organiser David Handley said: "We've been open and honest all week, and said that today was not about numbers. We've put it [fuel duty] right back on the agenda."

Diesel and petrol prices have hit record levels across Britain, with petrol selling at an average of R14,37 a litre and diesel at R15.

Tom Houghton, in Chester, said: "You talk to farmers, you talk to hauliers, you talk to the general public - they aretotally incensed about the price of fuel.

"It's just a warm-up to say: 'Look government, look at this, do something about it'.

"We do not want to get back to 2000. But if we have to put rolling roads on . and bring it to a head, then we will do."

In 2000, blockades by truckers of fuel storage depots and refineries caused panic-buying and widespread petrol shortages.

Environmental lobbying group the Campaign for Better Transport said protesters were "misguided", as the price of motoring since Labour came to power in 1997 had fallen, while the cost of public transport had risen.

Roads and climate campaigner Rebecca Lush Blum said: "Actually, the government has bent over backwards to keep fuel tax very low: it hasn't risen in line with inflation for years.

"That's had disastrous effects for the economy and for the environment. Now the government has started to put in small inflation-linked increases, and that's the right thing to do." - Reuters

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