Fuel crisis: Coalition u-turn on petrol advice as government told not to play politics with motorists
THE Government back-pedalled on advice to motorists to top up their petrol tanks yesterday to end the panic buying that had brought queues to garage forecourts across the country.
The advice changed as union leaders warned ministers that attempts to “politically charge” the dispute to deflect attention from their own political difficulties could scupper the prospect of a deal to avert strikes by tanker drivers. The claim came as petrol forecourts appeared to be returning to normal yesterday as motorists began to heed new advice not to stock up on fuel. However, emergency planning minister Francis Maude remained under pressure to resign following claims that his advice last week to the public to fill up jerry cans to ensure they had enough petrol.
A 46-year-old woman last night remained in a critical condition after petrol vapour caught fire as she decanted it from one container to another in her kitchen. Diane Hill, from York, suffered 40 per cent burns after vapour ignited. The Government yesterday performed a u-turn on its advice to motorists to top up petrol tanks after Unite, which represents 2,000 fuel tanker drivers, ruled out the threat of strikes over Easter.
After several days of urging motorists to fill up if their tanks dropped below two-thirds full, the Department for Energy and Climate Change said yesterday there was no need to queue on petrol forecourts. “There is no urgency to top up your tank, a strike will not happen over Easter,” it said.
The union will attend talks with the arbitration service Acas tomorrow to try to negotiate an end to its dispute over working conditions for drivers.
But yesterday, Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, said: “We call on the Government to come clean on its whole approach to this dispute. Is it acting as an honest broker, or is it spoiling for a fight in order to get itself out of the political hole its class-focused economic mismanagement has put it in?
“Serious industrial issues are being lost in this machismo.”
McCluskey said there were serious consequences to the Government’s “dreadful advice” earlier this week to stockpile petrol.
“That advice has now been withdrawn – yet the Government knows it was never necessary,” he said.
The government also faced criticism from within its own ranks. Senior Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin said he thought the government may have been trying to divert people’s 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.
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Monday 20 May 2013
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