help with & and ^

I am trying to create a batch file programmaticly that will then execute an URL. The URL has parameters in it such as &username, &password etc.

Apparently the & is a special character(win xp) and as such i need to use the ^ to circumvent this. I think I'm on the right path to resolve this, but i can't figure out the combination of ^ for each parm.

here is what i want to do.
set URL=http://localhost/i/w/handler/handlerpage.aspx?
set URL=%URL%action=login
set URL=%URL%&UserName=mikey
set URL=%URL%&password=mypwd
set URL=%URL%&application=17
set URL=%URL%&idx_service_order_#=100277049

start %URL%

This is ultimately what i need to achive in my dos batch file.
i know i have to use the ^ to achive this, but can't figure out the correct combination.
Can someone please help me out with this.?
Let me know if you need more explanation

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