Boris Johnson Says Key Workers Won't Get Priority At Petrol Pumps Amid Fuel Shortages
Petrol stations across the country have seen queues amid fuel shortages (Alamy)
The government has rejected calls from Keir Starmer to give priority to key workers at petrol stations, and have said there are signs the nationwide fuel shortages are beginning to ease.
Speaking on the fourth day of the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, Starmer said a lack of action from the government on the fuel shortages had “reduced the country to chaos”.
“I spoke to the haulage sector this morning to the businesses that are absolutely in the middle of this, and they are beyond frustrated and these were their words, they said it's a Government that is denying there's a problem, then blaming somebody else, and then coming up with a half-baked plan,” he told BBC News.
“What I would do is give priority to key workers this week.”
But a Downing Street spokesperson ruled out such a move, claiming that "the fastest way to ensure key workers, and everyone else, get fuel is to reassure on supply and encourage people to fill up only when needed".
"Early signs show our mitigations and industry reassurance is working, with demand falling,” they added.
Labour’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth had earlier called on Sajid Javid to speak to health and care groups and allay their fears over fuel shortages.
He said he was unsure if the government needed to take the step of prioritising certain workers, but added that unions who have been calling for more help “need telling that they don’t”.
“Javid can’t leave it to [transport secretary] Grant Shapps. The BMA, the RCN — they need reassurance,” Ashworth told reporters at Labour’s party conference.
“If they need to take action then they should, but if they don’t then he needs to come out and say that, don’t be silent.”
Ministers have been under huge pressure to act after fuel shortages which started last week worsened significantly over the weekend, with mass panic buying leading to petrol stations around the country running out of fuel.
Last week the government announced it would make 5,000 visas available for foreign lorry drivers after multiple trade groups had urged ministers to make it easier for British companies to recruit from Europe.
The initial shortages, which the government and industry said were manageable and not a cause for panic, were the result of an ongoing shortage of lorry drivers in the UK, exacerbated by Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.
There were signs on Tuesday that demand was returning to normal, however, according to the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA).
“There are early signs that the crisis at pumps is ending, with more of our members reporting that they are now taking further deliveries of fuel,” said Gordon Balmer, PRA executive director.
“Fuel stocks remain normal at refineries and terminals, although deliveries have been reduced due to the shortage of HGV drivers.
“We have conducted a survey of our members this morning and only 37% of forecourts have reported being out of fuel today. With regular restocks taking place, this percentage is likely to improve further over the next 24 hours”.
Earlier on Tuesday, Greg Hands, minister for business, energy and clean growth, told the BBC that the “situation is getting better”.
He said the decision late on Monday night to put the army on standby was a “reasonable precaution”.
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