Tory minister plays down fuel crisis and insists there is plenty of petrol

A Tory minister has played down the fuel crisis and insisted there is plenty of petrol for drivers who need it.

Grant Shapps claimed recent queues at forecourts were the result of a “manufactured situation” created by a road hauliers’ association.

It comes as the UK Government was forced to bend its own tough immigration rules to offer three-month visas to European lorry drivers in an attempt to ease pressure on supply lines.

Shapps blamed a trade association for the haulage industry for “sparking” the supply “crisis” through “irresponsible briefings” to the public.

Although the MP did not name the group, a UK Government source told one London newspaper the Road Haulage Association was “entirely responsible for this panic and chaos”.

Asked whether the UK Government had ignored warnings for months about an upcoming shortage from the food and drink industry, Shapps told Sky’ News: “Not true – we have already doubled the capacity so it’s not true that nothing has been done.

Asked who manufactured the situation, he said: “There was a meeting which took place about 10 days ago, a private meeting in which one of the haulage associations decided to leak the details to media, and that has created, as we have seen, quite a large degree of concern as people naturally react to those things.

“The good news is there is plenty of fuel, the bad news is if everyone carries on buying it when they don’t need it then we will continue to have queues.

“Sooner or later everyone’s cars will be more or less filled up, there won’t be anywhere else to put fuel. It’s not like the toilet roll crisis at the beginning of the pandemic where people could stockpile it, therefore it will come to an end.

“We just appeal to people to be sensible, fill up when you normally would. We’ve got this big package in place today in order to help alleviate the pressure and we ask people to do their part.”

Rod McKenzie of the Road Haulage Assosicaion RHA, said it was good the UK Government was “doing something” to recruit more drivers but warned it did not go far enough.

“Twelve weeks is an incredibly short period of time if you are working in Poland or somewhere else in Europe,” he told the PA news agency.

“They will see an advert tomorrow if they are lucky, they’ll apply for the job, they will need to find somewhere to live in Britain, assuming they get a visa, and then they will have to hand their notice in wherever they are working now.

“You can work it out that 12 weeks suddenly becomes 10 weeks, becomes eight weeks and then becomes ‘crikey, is it worth it?’.

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