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The Guardian (UK): Farmers stage fuel price demonstration: A Shell spokeswoman said the protest had not caused any disruption to the fuel supply. (ShellNews.net) 26 April 05

 

Helen Carter

Tuesday April 26, 2005

 

A group of farmers in tractors descended on an oil refinery at 5am yesterday, determined to make rising fuel prices an election issue.

 

A rolling blockade of agricultural vehicles was set up at Stanlow oil refinery in Cheshire, the place where Farmers For Action launched its nationwide protest over the issue five years ago. By early afternoon, the numbers had dwindled to a handful of tractors and 15 protesters.

 

Last night, however, about 50 lorries took up the protest as they headed to oil refineries in west Wales. The lorries, joined by coaches and taxis, were heading to a Texaco refinery in Pembroke and a refinery in Milford Haven operated by Elf, protesters said.

 

And police say that today about 30 motorists are planning a go-slow in Hampshire to protest against fuel price rises. The convoy was expected to start at about 6.30am, in time for the morning rush hour, travelling at 40 mph on minor routes and 50 mph on the motorway.

 

At the height of the Stanlow protest, the tractors slowly circled the roundabout on an approach road to the refinery for a couple of hours, before agreeing to park on the grass just before 8am. At lunchtime, they unanimously voted to stay. But a few hours later many had left.

 

Farmers for Action claimed that in the early hours 30 vehicles had been involved in the protest. But a spokeswoman for Cheshire constabulary, which had officers at the site, said the number was nearer 14.

 

Tom Houghton, a farmer from Sandbach, Cheshire, said it was too early to say whether the protest would become more widespread. He refused to be drawn on whether they would attempt to blockade the refinery.

 

"We want to make sure that future governments sit up and take notice," he said. "Everything comes down to the price of fuel. The fertiliser and feed are moved by road and everything goes off the farm by road.

 

"It is not a political thing as such, but it is about time the government took notice of British agriculture. At the moment it is being decimated and there is no future for youngsters in the industry."

 

David Handley, a dairy farmer from Monmouth, south Wales, and a founder of Farmers For Action, said the demonstration had been designed to make fuel prices an election issue. "In 2000 they promised they would look at the situation in relation to fuel tax. Here we are in 2005 and the government don't even seem to have it on the agenda."

 

Mr Handley said farmers paid 92.5p a litre for diesel, more than 30p a litre for red diesel and 86.5p a litre for unleaded petrol.

 

The farmers had hoped to get the support of the TGWU, the tanker drivers' union, but it failed to back them during a meeting with a shop steward yesterday.

 

A Shell spokeswoman said the protest had not caused any disruption to the fuel supply.

 

A police spokeswoman said: "This is not the situation that we had in 2000. The road is not blocked and tankers from the fuel depot are accessing and leaving the site routinely. There is no threat to any petrol supplies in any garages."

 

Roger Hopley, a sheep and arable farmer in Staffordshire, said: "This is the first fine day for a while, and the lads have a week's work to catch up on, so it's been quieter."

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1470220,00.html

 

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