Countryside militants give Ministers a fortnight to take steps on fuel costs

WIDESPREAD protests over the escalating cost of fuel could be seen across the country in the coming weeks, a rural campaigning group has warned.

Farmers for Action (FFA) say they want the Government to take steps to assist farmers and rural businesses being harmed by recent price increases and have given Ministers two weeks to respond with appropriate proposals.

Chairman David Handley said protests would begin shortly afterwards if a satisfactory reply were not forthcoming but added he and his members were keen to discuss the matter with the Government before rushing into anything.

Mr Handley told the Yorkshire Post the FFA was compelled to take the stance due to so many farmers being driven out of business by unmanageable fuel costs.

"We have a letter going off to David Cameron and the Chancellor requesting a meeting as we want to get an insight into what they think they are going to do in respect of the Budget about escalating fuel costs," he said. "We do not necessarily expect a meeting but we expect a reply back.

"If we get nothing back then protests will take place as a matter of priority."

The FFA was one of the main organisations involved in the fuel protests of 2000 which caused widespread disruption across the country.

More recently it has been in the news over its blockades of supermarket depots over the poor prices being paid to dairy farmers.

Mr Handley said he expected to garner plenty of support from other organisations if the FFA did decide to stage protests.

"There are plenty of groups out there feeling the pinch," he added. "It is not just the farming industry being affected, this impacts upon everybody."

The news came as one MP warned that it could take months to bring in a scheme that aims to cut the cost for motorists filling up in some of Britain's remotest communities.

In October, Treasury officials announced they were in talks with Europe over plans to introduce a duty discount of up to 5p on a litre of fuel for some rural areas. The scheme needs the backing of the European Commission, however, and Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael said yesterday a formal application for this would not be made until after the Budget on March 23.

Despite that Mr Carmichael, the MP for Orkney and Shetland, insisted the Government was "committed" to the measure.