They are concerned that coordinated action by Insulate Britain on busy motorways such as the M4, M1 and M20 could cause huge damage to the capital at a time when supply chains are already stretched by the HGV driver shortage.
Government lawyers are today looking at the options for wider-ranging powers that could see protesters locked up if they set foot on any strategic trunk road, not just the M25.
One senior London business figure said: “There are ways of protesting and they should not involve jumping in front of traffic at 70mph on the motorway.”
He added that blocking the key motorway “spokes” into the capital would create havoc for deliveries. Today, a leading Green Party politician compared the series of blockades by the group to the actions of the Suffragettes in the early 20th century.
Baroness Bennett, a former leader of the party, told TalkRadio presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer: “Non-violent direct action — that’s what gave women the vote... that’s what the Suffragettes did, that’s what the anti-fracking movement did. It’s a tactic of last resort.”
Ministers have privately conceded that court injunctions to ban Insulate Britain’s roadblocks could lead to a “cat-and-mouse” battle with protesters as they try to shut other important routes.
Yesterday’s court injunction gives police the power to detain on remand anyone who tries to impose a roadblock on the M25. However, Insulate Britain — an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion — vowed to carry on with their campaign, which has already seen the M25 blocked five times over the past 10 days.
A representative said: “We do not know the terms of the injunction and right now our campaign goes on. In focusing on us, Priti Patel is missing the bigger picture. Currently 8,500 people a year die unnecessarily in the UK because of their frozen homes, and climate collapse presents an incalculable threat to our way of life.”
She added: “As soon as the Government makes a meaningful statement we can trust, we’ll leave the motorway.”
More than 270 arrests have been made in connection with the motorway protests. But police have previously been using laws that do not attract a prison sentence, so suspects can be detained for a maximum of 24 hours.
Outside the Home Office yesterday, Insulate Britain activist Stephen Pritchard, 67, a property maintenance worker from Somerset, burned his bail conditions and said he had been arrested three times so far.