Fuel strike: Advice to drivers changed after panic buying


Petrol station customer: "It's quite mixed messages really"

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The government has changed its advice to motorists to top up petrol tanks after two days of panic buying.

It says this is no longer urgent after the Unite union ruled out a strike by its tanker drivers over Easter.

Meanwhile, several Labour MPs have called for Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude to resign for earlier advising storing petrol in jerrycans.

A York woman, who suffered severe burns while decanting petrol at home, remains critically ill in hospital.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron told motorists to "top up" their tanks in case of a strike, leading to long queues at petrol stations across the country.

Up to a third of garages were reportedly forced to turn people away after stocks ran out.

The GMB union said some ambulance drivers were having problems getting fuel - the government though insisted services were continuing as normal.

But a spokesman from the London Ambulance Service said: "We are not experiencing any particular difficulties in refuelling vehicles at the moment."

He added the service was holding reserve fuel in case of any future industrial action.

Graphic showing how long fuel in UK drivers' tanks could last

Demand for petrol now seems to be waning - down from a 172% rise on Thursday to a 28% rise on Friday, according to independent retailers' group RMI Petrol.

The AA described "a rapidly improving picture at fuel stations".

A spokesman said: "The advice for drivers is to resume your normal buying patterns and to adhere to regulations on how much fuel you can carry and store."

However, the BBC has had reports on Saturday of queues and shortages continuing at petrol stations in Leeds, Tonbridge in Kent, Egham in Surrey, Bromley in south-east London, Finchampstead in Berkshire and St Albans in Hertfordshire.

There are also reports of stations increasing fuel prices, and limiting sales. In Guildford, Surrey, one petrol station is refusing to sell motorists any more than £25 worth of fuel.

Motoring experts now warn of a two to three day backlog as haulers attempt to refuel petrol stations.

A BP spokesperson also said there had been a reduction in demand on the forecourts but it still had a few sites which had completely run out of stock and were awaiting deliveries.

In the meantime, Unite would need to give seven days' notice if they plan to strike after Easter.

A political row has broken out in response to Mr Maude's comments earlier in the week.

Senior Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin said he thought the government may have been trying to divert peoples' attention away from a difficult week for the Tory party and the coalition.

"Really there should not have been any move to encourage people to buy more than they normally buy without consulting the industry first, and I think that was the mistake," he said.


John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, Karl Turner, MP for Hull East, and Labour Lord Toby Harris are among those who have called for Mr Maude to resign if it turns out his comments contributed to the burns accident suffered by 46-year-old Diane Hill.

She was seriously injured after petrol ignited as she poured it from a green jerrycan into another in her kitchen. The cooker was on and the petrol fumes ignited. She was treated for 40% burns at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.

Diane Hill Diane Hill remains in hospital after suffering severe burns while decanting petrol at home

Mr Mann added: "[Francis Maude] was whipping up hysteria, which caused the queues as well. But he went further, and gave out advice that was wrong."

Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi responded angrily to the calls for Mr Maude to stand down and accused Labour of attempting to score "political points" out of a "personal tragedy".

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said the government had mishandled the row between the tanker drivers and their employers and there should have been more attempt for talks between the parties involved.

"Starting to say instead fill up your tank, causing panic, getting out the jerry cans, has led to the queues, to the shortages, to the running out of petrol."

Adair Lewis from the Fire Protection Association told the BBC Ms Hill's accident was a "wake-up call to us all", adding: "Petrol should only ever be bought in proper containers made for that purpose. There is no place for petrol inside your home."

The Department for Energy and Climate Change said: "There is no urgency to top up your tank, a strike will not happen over Easter."

Drivers' hours

Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said although no industrial action was planned over Easter as it focused on next week's talks with distribution companies through the reconciliation service Acas, this did not mean the union had backed down.

Psychologist Dr Clifford Stott: "It's individualistic, selfish behaviour that's leading to demand"

"We do still retain the right to call strike action for after Easter, should those talks break down," she said.

The rules on fuel tanker drivers' hours have been temporarily relaxed to help the transport of supplies to filling stations.

Under EU rules, drivers are limited to nine hours on the road each day, but this has now been raised to 11 hours.

The new rules will apply until Thursday and have been introduced after requests from the fuel supply industry.

Unite's drivers, who deliver fuel to Shell and Esso garages and supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury's, have called for minimum working conditions covering pay, hours, holiday and redundancy.

Some 90% of UK forecourts are supplied by Unite's approximately 2,000 members involved in the dispute.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    When supplies are plentiful, the average car's tank fuel level is about 50% full. If the preceived risk of shortage rises, the rational approach is to increase that level. If one re-fills when 66% full, then the average will rise to 83%. If an average tank is say 60 l, this equates to 20 l extra which is five days' worth at 4 l/day per day (123m /day over 31m cars). Why the fuss by Govt. & media ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    I think the government are to be blame and to tell people to fill cans is just unbelievable makes me think it was a ploy to have panick buy and record sales lots more money just in time for the year end !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    The pre-budget report in 1999 stated: "The Chancellor has decided that the revenues from any real terms increases in fuel duties will, in future, go straight in to a ring-fenced fund for improving public transport and modernising the road network."
    Uhh! Where is the improved public transport? If it were in place people would not be so pannicked about fuel shortage! What has happened to the money?

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    Total incompetetnce by the government, they do not know how to communicate to population. They should not have told people to top up their tanks and start hording fuel, which caused the panic buying, But what they were trying to do was turn the public against the trade union who have a genuine health and safety problem. Transporting large qtys of petrol is dangerous and people have been killed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    The entire blame for this fiasco lies with the Eton Mafia currently destroying this country. Of course they wouldn't have been inconvenienced because their chauffeurs and lackeys were the ones queueing at the pumps.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    Extraordinary how those with capacity to increase & decrease oil supply to market hold all the cards!

    uk motorists from 2014 onwards be assured Scottish governments will act responsibly to maintain oil flows.

    Equally Scotland will ensure the best deal for our oil to fund our schools, hospitals & infrastructure, etc.

    Funny how uk government tell Scots our oil is running out, etc.

    C McK

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    Perhaps if thousands of independents hadn't been put out of business by greedy supermarkets then there would be more fuel available at times like this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    This has been very badly handled by our govt which I suspect was trying to deflect attention away from themselves after a bad 2 weeks. That backfired spectacularly didn't it. Where they miscalculated was not realising the stupidity of so many people. I have been in a petrol station where someone was smoking while filling their car. Unbelievable

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    Yes Maude was silly to make the jerrycan comments but also to be fair, surely the govt should be able to rely on a little bit of common sense from the public? If they'd said nothing and the strike had happened everyone would have pointed the finger and complained that no one told them.... The government can't win!! Still everything's always someone else's fault - that's what Labour taught us!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    How Francis Maude and this government can sleep at night I'll never know! I just wonder what influence the Liberals had on their behavior, this utterly back-fired hoping to shame Labour and distract from the pasty tax - it failed spectacularly.

    Let's be clear this grievance is about safety and not money as the coalition would have us believe! The strike hasn't even been set yet, what a shamble!

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    4 Minutes ago
    I have just been told.......

    Manufacturers of toilet paper are due to go on strike next week!
    Remember, you have been warned and heard it first here on the BBC HYS website.

    Yes - Woman trips over toilet rolls rolling round the kitchen - breaks all four limbs - and guess what - its someone else's fault.

  • Comment number 219.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    Re: 132. In total agreement... Common Sense.... not a lot of it going about these days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    @204 Happyface - well I agree but sadly you will never get to the bottom of it. Wealthy and 'useful' individuals and corporations have always lobbied politicians, politicians can be puppets of those who look after them - can even be useful in by elections!

    Re the petrol, I had to fill up today, tank was genuinely low. Felt embarrasssed queueing, there were bad tempers and jerry cans!

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    Why is it a few ill informed and obviously absurd comments about fuel prompt a radical change in peoples behavior but endless advice about smoking, obesity, and alcohol is largely ignored.
    Even the Pasty Politics missed a chance to ask if we really should be eating the things.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    I heard a rumour that the water shotage is going to cause all the pubs to run out of beer, so tonight I'm going to the pub just in case

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    I totally agree with the below comments regarding the moronic "panic buying" but what troubles me more is the calling for Mr Maude to resign. Why should he? He gave advice to keep "petrol in a can in the garage", sound advice I think. He's certainly not to blame for the woman setting herself on fire. Labour jumping on the bandwagon calling for resignation yet the Mrs Abbott is still in a job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    The woman who had that accident is a prime example of why we need Health & Safety - why would anyone know exactly how flammable petrol fumes are unless someone had told them...???

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    "Comment number 132. GrumpyMungo

    You can't blame the government. The only thing you can blame is a total lack of common sense in Joe Public"

    No blame to the people who are paid good money to be responsible, yet all the blame to the public for taking this paid advice.

  • Comment number 211.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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