Grant Shapps has made a plea for people not to panic buy petrol after scenes of long queues across the country as he launched a drive to get former HGV drivers working in the sector again.
The transport secretary said “there’s plenty of fuel”, but that “if everyone carries on buying it when they don’t need it then you will continue to have queues”.
“We appeal to people to be sensible, fill up when you normally would,” Shapps told Sky News.
“We ask people to do their part now we’ve got a package in place.”
Scenes of long queues at petrol stations have been witnessed across the country in the past few days as people worry about the supply of fuel due to lorry driver shortages.
Edmund King, the president of the Automobile Association (AA), told the BBC yesterday that “there is plenty of fuel at source” and that a lorry driver shortage had only been a “localised problem”.
Shapps blamed the panic on the Road Haulage Association for leaking details of a private meeting with the government.
“There was a meeting 10 days ago, a private meeting, in which one of the haulage associations decided to leak the details to the media and that has created quite a large degree of concern. People naturally react to these things,” he said.
The government is calling for 1m people with HGV licenses, but are not currently working in the sector, to return and help ease driver shortages.
This goes alongside a short-term relaxation of immigration rules, which will allow several thousand foreign workers to come over from next month to drive HGVs, and a “streamlining” of HGV licence testing.
The army has been called in to help administer tests, however Shapps refused to say on the BBC whether soldiers would have to be brought in to drive HGVs.
The minister said all this was only a short-term solution to current pressures.
“I do not believe…that the long term solution to Britain’s shortages of HGV drivers is to import drivers, undercut British salaries and not skill up people to do the job in the UK,” he said.
“I also recognise and am pragmatic about that this is what we need to ensure people are reassured now this manufactured situation has been created.”