Government urges public not to panic buy amid fuel supply problems
Panic-buying at petrol stations prompted some of the largest UK operators to ration fuel as the government was warned its U-turn on HGV driver visas will come too late to prevent disruption to Christmas.
BP shut 20 forecourts and limited supplies at up to 100 more, while EG Group set a limit of £30 per customer at nearly 400 stations due to “unprecedented demand and associated supply challenges”. Esso, Tesco and Shell sites were also affected.
The crisis has reportedly prompted Boris Johnson to give the go-ahead to temporarily lift visa restrictions for foreign drivers, although no decisions have yet been confirmed.
However government insiders have told The Independent it might already be too late to stop disruption to the Christmas holiday, after the retail industry claimed ministers had “10 days to save Christmas”.
Downing Street insisted UK has “ample fuel stocks in this country and the public should be reassured there are no shortages”.
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Visa U-turn ‘unlikely to solve HGV driver shortage’
The boss of a haulage company has warned that the temporary visa scheme is unlikely solve the shortage of HGV drivers.
Toby Ovens, managing director of Broughton Transport Solutions, said he believed the problem was more down to low wages rather than Brexit.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether such a scheme could help alleviate the shortage, Mr Ovens said: “I personally don’t think so.
“No, I think a lot of what we’re seeing at the minute is down to essentially the driver wages.
“Margins in haulage are very tight and the reality is the money isn’t there to pay the increased wages without substantial price increases to customers.”
Asked whether his company could pay more to lure people into the industry, he replied: “Yes, my drivers have had a pay rise once already this year and we’re looking at it again. That’s obviously going to involve another price increase for customers but, unfortunately, that is necessary at the present time.”
Yesterday the EU’s leading haulage association said that European lorry drivers were likely to ignore the UK’s offer of temporary visas in favour of “higher pay and better working conditions” on the continent.
“I expect many drivers will not return to the UK even if the UK Government allows them to,” said Marco Digioia, the general secretary of UETR. “While offering visas to drivers on the continent would be a welcome step, there are many other issues, such as working conditions, pay, and the costs of getting into and working in the UK.”
Peter Stubley25 September 2021 09:56
CBI urges government to ease ‘Brexit hangover’
The head of the CBI described the shortages of HGV drivers and other workers as “a little bit of a Brexit hangover”.
Tony Danker told BBC Breakfast: “We had several drivers go home that we wouldn’t have wanted to go home and I think there is this bigger question of the immigration system, and it’s a complicated one.”
He said: “Essentially the government said ‘look, post-Brexit, let’s have an immigration system that only lets in the skills we need, not the skills we don’t’.
“Well, I think what we’re realising is there are some skills we need in the short run, we need to bring them in (but) not forever.”
He added: “You can’t turn round when there are shortages, fold your arms as some Government ministers have done and say ‘well, just put up wages and it will sort it’.
“It won’t sort it, you can’t turn baggage handlers into butchers overnight or shopkeepers into chefs, you can do it over three to five years maybe, but you can’t do it overnight.”
Peter Stubley25 September 2021 09:40
BBC fuel crisis reporter Phil McCann trends on Twitter
Update: BBC reporter Phil McCann, who has been reporting on panic-buying in Stockport, is now trending on Twitter because people can’t resist joking about his name.
Peter Stubley25 September 2021 09:25
Visa changes for foreign workers ‘a huge relief’, says CBI
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which represents 190,000 businesses in the UK, has criticised the government’s delay in relaxing visa rules for foreign workers.
Director-general Tony Danker welcomed the move – which was discussed by ministers on Friday – and told BBC Breakfast: “Hopefully it is going to happen and it is a huge relief.
“We’ve been calling for it for three months we could see this problem coming and more problems coming, and so it’s a shame the government needed queues at the pumps to move, but move I hope they have and it will help.”
However Mr Danker said that the UK was also facing labour shortages in several other occupations as well as supply chain and energy problems. The CBI has warned that the UK’s labour crisis could last for up to two years.
“It’s taken a bit of a crisis to force their hand, but I really hope the government follows through on what we’re hearing because that would provide some relief and get us started again,” he said.
Peter Stubley25 September 2021 09:21
Petrol supply crisis ‘a temporary blip’, says AA president
The shortage of petrol at forecourts across the UK is only a ‘temporary blip,’ said the president of the AA.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Edmund King said: “The good news is you can only really fill up once – you’ve got to use the fuel, so this should be a short-term thing.
“It’s not like the fuel crises in the past when the supplier was hit by strikes, etc.
“So, once people have filled up, they won’t travel more than they normally travel, so this strain on the system should ease up in the next few days.”
He urged drivers to “stick to normal filling patterns” and added: “This will be temporary blip as new supplies are delivered every 24 to 48 hours.”
Peter Stubley25 September 2021 09:01
Phil McCann reports on petrol panic-buying crisis
Meanwhile the BBC appears to have found the perfect reporter to cover the petrol supply crisis this morning.
Phil McCann (yes, really) has been covering shortages in Stockport, where one station sold three times the normal amount yesterday and is now out of fuel.
Peter Stubley25 September 2021 08:47
EG Group rations fuel at £30 per customer amid panic-buying
If you missed it last night, EG Group announced that it was setting a £30 per customer limit for fuel at its forecourts due to supply problems and increased demand due to panic-buying by drivers.
An EG Group spokesperson said: “Due to the current unprecedented customer demand for fuel and associated supply challenges we have taken the decision to introduce a limit of £30 per customer on all of our grades of fuel.
“This excludes HGV drivers and emergency services due to their vital role at this time.
“This is a company decision to ensure all our customers have a fair chance to refuel and to enable our sites to carry on running smoothly.
“We kindly ask everyone visiting our sites to treat our colleagues, supply chain partners and customers with respect during these very challenging times. All of EG Group’s UK sites remain open and operational to serve customers.”
EG Group has around 400 petrol stations across the UK.
Peter Stubley25 September 2021 08:42
Boris Johnson ‘owes apology’ over supply crisis, says Davey
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey described the government’s plans for visa changes for HGV drivers as a “screeching U-turn”.
He said: “This screeching U-turn is too late for those whose lives have been thrown into chaos.
“The Tories have shown they can’t be trusted to run this country.
“The arrogance of Boris Johnson has cost jobs. He knew there was a fix to this problem but ploughed on regardless.
“He owes the British people an apology.”
Peter Stubley25 September 2021 08:35
‘There is no fuel shortage’
Ministers have repeatedly attempted to dissuade the public from panic-buying, insisting that there were no shortages of petrol.
A Downing Street spokesman said last night: “We have ample fuel stocks in this country and the public should be reassured there are no shortages.
“But like countries around the world we are suffering from a temporary Covid-related shortage of drivers needed to move supplies around the country.
“We’re looking at temporary measures to avoid any immediate problems, but any measures we introduce will be very strictly time-limited.
“We are moving to a high-wage, high-skilled economy and businesses will need to adapt with more investment in recruitment and training to provide long-term resilience.
Peter Stubley25 September 2021 08:30
Government U-turn on HGV driver visas ‘too late to avoid Christmas disruption’
Scenes of panic-buying at petrol forecourts across the UK – on top of existing supply issues relating to the shortage of lorry drivers – have prompted the government to consider plans to ease visa requirements.
The move will reportedly allow up to 5,000 foreign lorry drivers into Britain on a short-term basis.
It came as the retail industry warned that ministers had just “10 days to save Christmas”.
However government insiders have told the Independent that the post-Brexit U-turn on visas has come too late to avoid disrupting Christmas.
Peter Stubley25 September 2021 08:23