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British Truckers Protest Taxes

April 12, 1999

LONDON (AP) _ Hundreds of trucks jammed London’s Park Lane alongside Hyde Park and the centers of seven other major cities Monday to protest higher taxes on diesel fuel and heavy vehicle licenses.

The truckers, who say European rivals have lower operating costs, rumbled down four major highways leading into the capital _ the M1, M2, M4 and M25 _ bringing traffic to a halt in some places.

Protests also disrupted traffic in Scotland’s two major cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow; in England’s northern cities of Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Manchester; and in Truro and Plymouth in southwest England.

The Labor Party government called the protest a form of blackmail and argued that British trucking companies’ overall costs were lower than those in Germany, France and the Netherlands.

``The public will not understand _ and nor do I _ why today some hauliers have decided to penalize, disrupt and inconvenience the public once again,″ Transport Minister John Reid said.

The protest was the second since last month, when the government in its annual budget increased gasoline taxes and increased the cost of an annual license for a 40-ton, five-axle truck from $4,000 to $9,200.

Reid said the 40-ton truck, which Britain is required to admit under European Union regulations, created the equivalent in road damage and pollution of 10,000 cars.

He said French, German and Dutch truckers paid higher corporate, income and capital gains taxes, and had higher labor costs.

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