UK - Government Y2K plan helps fight fuel crisis : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Sunday 5 November 2000 Government Y2K plan helps fight fuel crisis By David Cracknell and David Harrison

JACK STRAW is depending on contingency plans originally designed to cope with any civil unrest provoked by the Millennium computer bug to deal with the deepening fuel crisis.

The plans, commissioned to nullify the effects of a massive computer failure caused by the year 2000 date change, are aimed at preventing a breakdown in essential services.The "Millennium Infrastructure Project", known as the Doomsday Book, identifies that a fuel shortage would contribute to that breakdown and could lead to rioting and loss of life.

As widespread panic buying of petrol continued yesterday, causing many garages to run dry a week before the fuel protesters' "Jarrow Crusade", a Cabinet Office insider confirmed that the "Doomsday" report was being considered by the civil contingency committee, chaired by the Home Secretary. The report's aim is "to assist and inform the Government's efforts to ensure . . . that key public services are not materially disrupted", according to a copy obtained by The Telegraph.

Ministers have also made plans to use aviation fuel in emergency and Army vehicles if the fuel protesters set up blockades and bring the country to its knees. Defence officials said kerosene used in lorries and ambulances could work if treated with chemicals to protect engines.

The propaganda war between the Government and the fuel protesters continued as Mr Straw accused the People's Fuel Lobby of threatening lives and putting Britain's economy at risk. David Handley, the leader of the fuel lobby, said the demonstrators had "no intention" of blockading oil refineries or food suppliers.

He accused Jack Straw of "hyping up" fears of a petrol shortage and causing widespread panic buying. He said: "This will be a peaceful protest." He said that he would condemn any behaviour that endangers life in any way. "We want to negotiate with the Government, talk to them on behalf of the ordinary people that we represent - lorry drivers, taxi drivers, businessmen, farmers and the disabled - who are being hit hard by fuel tax."

Mr Straw has ordered police to take a tougher line with the protesters than during the September protests which disrupted essential services and almost brought the country to a standstill. Senior officers, who have been in talks with supermarket executives, said they would arrest any demonstrators who attempted to stop food supplies reaching supermarkets. The stores have made plans to ration basic foods such as bread, milk and potatoes if the protesters block delivery lorries or provoke panic buying.

Oil companies said security measures were in place to ensure fuel supplies were not disrupted. A Shell spokesman said: "We are certainly erring on the side of caution. There is always the fear that the 'lunatic fringe' might come in looking for a bit of aggro."

Anything from 5,000 to 25,000 lorries are expected to converge on Parliament on Monday, November 13, at the end of a four-day protest drive if Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, fails to promise a fuel tax cut in his pre-Budget statement on Wednesday.

The convoys will start at Jarrow on Tyneside next Friday and call at cities including Newcastle, York, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham to gather support. Fishermen are expected to stage protests in most ports and send a flotilla up the Thames to Westminster.

Mr Handley admitted, however, that the convoys would cause road chaos. Petrol retailers insisted yesterday that shortages were unlikely and urged motorists to show restraint. Their warnings appeared to be having little effect as "panic buying" continued in many areas, causing some petrol stations to run dry.

-- Doris (, November 07, 2000

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