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Balls ramps up pressure

Balls ramps up pressure
The UK Petroleum Industry Association has described the fuel crisis as "self-inflicted insanity" in a leaked email to the Department of Energy.

Their criticism of the Government comes as opposition politicians increase the pressure on Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude to resign after a woman in York suffered 40% burns decanting petrol in her kitchen. The accident followed advice earlier this week from Mr Maude, who said people should consider keeping jerry cans of petrol in case of a strike.

Ed Balls told BBC Radio Leeds that "some people are paying a very, very heavy price" for the "panic" caused by ministers' interventions. Labour peer Lord Harris of Haringey tweeted today: "This woman was following advice from Govt Minister Francis Maude & ends up with 40% burns... Disgraceful. He shd [sic] resign."

Labour MP for Hull Karl Turner told BBC News: "Francis Maude should consider his position if it’s connected with this tragic incident in York."

The member of Parliament for Bassetlaw, Labour's John Mann called the incident "a direct result of Francis Maude's rash and foolish reaction to negative press" and insisted: "Francis Maude should now be considering the consequences of his actions and do the decent thing and resign".

Mr Maude's remarks were described as a "mistake" by other government ministers, but the York accident may still leave him in a difficult position.

In another development, the Unite union announced it would not call a strike over Easter weekend, although action at another date is not being ruled out. Assistant general secretary Diana Holland told BBC News the union was "very determined" to find a solution and would "put everything else to one side" to enter negotiations.

Haulage companies are due to meet with Energy Secretary Ed Davey to discuss whether they may be able to help if fuel tanker drivers do go on strike, and David Cameron will this afternoon chair the second meeting of the emergency Cobra committee to discuss the issue.

The Government has insisted that only a "detailed and robust" contingency plan for a strike will be discussed at the meeting, not the dispute itself.

Boris Johnson has criticised the Government for not taking the situation seriously enough, and warned the UK faced a “potential fuel emergency”. In a letter to Eric Pickles last night, the Mayor of London, referring to the National Emergency Plan for Fuel, wrote: “It is clear that the circumstances of Level 2 (Potential Fuel Emergency) have been reached and yet we are still at Level One (Situation Normal),”

Meanwhile motorists have continued to ignore government advice and are panic-buying petrol in case a strike goes ahead. Filling stations across the country have begun to run out of petrol, with some people queueing into the night to fill up their tanks and reports of the police being called to break up fights between motorists.

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