Wednesday, March 28, 2012

UK govt condemned over fuel advice

The British government has urged people to take "sensible precautions" and keep a jerrycan of fuel in their garage in case a strike by fuel tanker drivers goes ahead.

But the advice has been condemned by Labour, motorist organisations and the Fire Brigade Union who have warned of panic buying and increased risks of fire.

The threat of a tanker driver strike prompted Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude to release a statement in which he urged the public to take "sensible precautions."

"People need to be aware there is a risk to fuel supplies," Maude said, before suggesting that motorists store a jerry can of fuel.

Fire Brigade Union general secretary Matt Wrack condemned the advice and said by storing fuel, the general public were risking their lives. "The general public does not properly understand the fire and explosion risk of storing fuel," he said, "Those without garages may be tempted to store fuel in the home. In the event of a fire in the house or a neighbouring property, it would be disastrous."

"There is a real danger the public will start storing fuel in inappropriate ways if the Government is encouraging panic-buying and storage. This advice is wrong and must be withdrawn."

Motoring organisations have also criticised the government calling statements from both the prime minister and his cabinet secretary "irresponsible".

An AA spokesman said, "It's the height of irresponsibility for Downing Street to give the impression that people should be panic-buying. They should be using all their efforts to get a settlement."

Meanwhile Labour branded the latest comments from Francis Maude the "height of irresponsibility part 2" and shadow minister without portfolio Michael Dugher asked, "Has Francis Maude gone mad?!"

There were no initial signs of panic at the pumps, though with many forecourts only storing around 25% of their capacity even a relatively small increase in fuel purchases could result in shortages.

While the Prime Minister David Cameron said there was no need to queue, he suggested motorists top up their tanks which could lead to problems in some areas.

Drivers with the Unite union, who supply 90% of UK forecourts, have voted to strike over terms and conditions. Although there would be at least a seven day warning the civil contingencies committee Cobra are already planning to meet to discuss plans.

In 2001 and 2005 Britain saw widespread fuel shortages after strikes by tanker drivers. Panic buying exacerbated the problem in many cases, prompting the government to ration fuel for key workers and emergency services.

With rising prices of fuel, many motorists may be cautious about filling up their tank. Prices at the turn of the millennium were a little over 70 pence per litre for unleaded petrol but have steadily risen to an all time high of £1.40 a litre. With a biting recession, motorists have reticent of filling up their tanks, adding only a few litres at a time [Sky / BBC / Telegraph / Guardian / Evening Standard].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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