The Times/OIL companies told MPs yesterday that they would implement contingency plans to keep fuel supplies moving within hours if there were fresh blockades after the 60-day deadline imposed by protesting haulers.
Directors of five oil companies told the Commons Trade and Industry Committee that measures to keep open supplies could be in place within six to 12 hours, in contrast to the six days it took during the previous protests.
They denied colluding with protesters during the blockades in September or profiteering from rises in forecourt fuel prices in order to force the Government to cut fuel tax and said threats to tanker drivers had been real.
Malcolm Brinded, chairman of Shell UK, said: “There were scores of incidents of personal abuse. You can say words will never hurt. Well, remember there was a very strong local content where a lot of the drivers were known to the protesters.
“We know where you live; we will kill you” . . . “Your house will be firebombed” . . . “We will publish your picture on the Internet labeled as a pedophile” — those are three extracts.
“No doubt there was a significant number there who were in for peaceful protest, but there were also other elements present and that had a significant impact on the mood locally and, like all intimidation, it is something that gets around.”
Mr. Brinded told MPs he thought it would be “sensible” if army drivers were used to move tankers in the event of fresh protests if civilian drivers felt threatened, but thought this would be done at a later stage, rather than immediately.
The oil company directors — from BP, Shell, Texaco, Total Fina Elf and Esso — urged the Chancellor to look at alternative measures, such as road tolls and congestion charges, to curb petrol consumption rather than fuel duty.
This story was first on line on The Times, Nov. 1st and was written by Christine Buckley and Greg Hurst.