Grant Shapps said the queues and closures at fuel stations were a “manufactured situation” created by the Road Haulage Association (RHA) leaking comments from BP bosses about supply concerns.
The Government announced a temporary visa scheme that will see 5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers brought in on three-month contracts to keep supermarket shelves stocked with turkeys and tackle fuel delivery difficulties.
Mr Shapps admitted he had done something he “didn’t necessarily want to do” in allowing foreign workers to fill the workforce gaps, having only on Friday rallied against the idea of temporary visas.
Speaking to Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme, Mr Shapps said: “We need to ensure that people are reassured now that this rather manufactured situation has been created, because there’s enough petrol in the country.”
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.”
He later told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show the briefings were “irresponsible”.
The Cabinet minister called for the public to be “sensible” and only fill up their cars when needed as there is “plenty of fuel” available.
Although Mr Shapps did not name the RHA in his broadcast round on Sunday, the Mail on Sunday quoted a Government source stating the Road Haulage Association was “entirely responsible for this panic and chaos”.
But Rod McKenzie, of the RHA, told the BBC: “This is absolute nonsense, I’m not the source of the leak.”