British lorry drivers in mass protest against diesel tax rises

British lorry drivers have protested against rises in diesel tax announced in the 1999 UK budget. A demonstration involving 1,500 lorries took place in London on April 12, while others were held in Edinburgh, Exeter, Newcastle and Middlesborough.

Under the UK Government’s “green” budget, rates of duty for conventional diesel rose by 6 percent in real terms to 50.21p/litre, making the duty on diesel paid by haulage firms in the UK the highest in Europe. In France, diesel duty stands at 24.57p/litre, while in Spain it is 17.59p/litre.

Vehicle excise duty on 40-tonne five-axle trucks went up to £5,750. In France it is £459 and in Luxembourg it is £338. The budget rises make the UK rate of duty on diesel 2.5 times higher than the European average (20.33p/litre).

According to the Freight Transport Association (FTA), the increases mean that in the UK 90 per cent of the price of diesel is tax, while over 30 percent of the operating costs of 38 tonne articulated lorry is tax.

The FTA says that the Budget will cost UK jobs and aid overseas competitors, encourage increasing numbers of foreign lorries to operate in the UK at the expense of the UK’s transport industry, and lead to UK transport operators purchasing diesel in Europe.

In March, the UK Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) announced the establishment of a new forum for the haulage industry. The Road Haulage Industry Forum is intended to give industry and union representatives a chance to express grievances with ministers from UK Government Transport, Treasury and Industry departments.

The Forum met for the first time on April 8, Minister for Transport, Dr John Reid said: “We had a long and in-depth discussion which proved to be very constructive. There are differences in perceptions of the state of the road haulage industry. However, we are going to jointly examine the state of the competitiveness of the haulage industry and take external independent views where necessary to inform our discussions.

“In addition, we will look at a range of other issues, for example, offering special assistance to small haulage businesses. “I hope that all hauliers will take the view that dialogue is the best way forward not disruption to the public.”

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