Grant Shapps blames haulage group for creating ‘manufactured situation’ as pump chaos continues

The transport secretary has said there would be no fuel queues if motorists filled up as normal as he accused a haulage group of triggering the “manufactured situation”.

Speaking to Sky News’ Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme, Grant Shapps insisted there was “plenty of fuel” and urged the public to be “sensible” as some retailers were forced to shut their pumps and ration sales in the face of long lines at petrol stations for a third day.

The supply crisis has been caused by a shortage of fuel tanker drivers.

Latest updates on fuel crisis

Image: Grant Shapps tells Sky News there is ‘plenty of fuel’

The cabinet minister’s comments came as the government announced a temporary visa scheme that will allow 5,000 HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers to be brought in from abroad on three-month contracts to keep supermarket shelves stocked with turkeys in the run up to Christmas and tackle fuel delivery problems.


However, business leaders have already warned the package of measures “will not be enough”.

Mr Shapps said: “I think the important thing to know is that within the country, at the six refineries and 47 storage facilities, there is plenty of fuel, there is no shortage of fuel within the country.

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“So the most important thing is actually that if people carry on as they normally would and fill up their cars when they normally would, then you won’t have queues and you won’t have shortages at the pump either.”

The transport secretary also rounded on a haulage trade body, which he said had helped “spark” the crisis through “irresponsible briefings” to the public and claimed it was “desperate to have more European drivers undercutting British salaries”.

Although Mr Shapps did not name the group, the Mail on Sunday reported a government source stating the Road Haulage Association was “entirely responsible for this panic and chaos”.

What petrol retailers are saying

Tesco says it has a “good availability of fuel” and it is “working really hard to ensure regular deliveries to our petrol filling stations across the UK every day”.

Shell says in the face of increased demand some of its sites are “running low on some grades”, but added it was “replenishing these quickly, usually within 24 hours”.

ASDA has introduced a £30 limit per transaction on its forecourts to “ensure as many customers as possible can refuel” and reports “good levels of fuel supply” with deliveries continuing over the weekend.

Sainsbury’s reports “experiencing high demand for fuel” and is working closely with its supplier to maintain supply with all its sites continuing to receive fuel.

BP says “intense demand” at the pumps means around 30% of its 1,200 sites do not currently have either of the main grades of fuel and it was “working to resupply as rapidly as possible”.

Denying the government had ignored warnings for months about a looming driver shortage, Mr Shapps said: “Let’s not pretend this is a UK-specific problem, it’s not.

“In Europe, for example in Poland, the shortage is 123,000 drivers, so there isn’t just one simple new point to axe off, there isn’t one simple solution to this, but we have, despite having had shortages, managed to ensure that petrol was still getting to petrol stations, food getting to the shops.

“I’m afraid there has been some pretty irresponsible briefing out by one of the road haulage associations, which has helped to spark a crisis, and that’s very, very unhelpful, it’s counterproductive.

“I know that they’re desperate to have more European drivers undercutting British salaries, I know that’s been their ask all along.

“We actually think that it’s important that this country can train people, that people can do a proper day’s work, that they’re paid properly for that work, and that the long-term solution cannot be undercutting British salaries and having a constant vicious cycle of not being able to train people here and employ them on decent salaries.”

Mr Shapps added: “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.”

Why is there a HGV driver shortage and how bad could the problem get?

Pressed over who had caused it, 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.

“The good news is there is plenty of fuel, the bad news is if everyone carries on buying it when they don’t need it then we will continue to have queues.

“We just appeal to people to be sensible, fill up when you normally would.

“We’ve got this big package in place today in order to help alleviate the pressure and we ask people to do their part.”

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Petrol queues early on Sunday morning

But Rod McKenzie, of the RHA, said: “The allegation against me is nonsense.

“I was not in the meeting. I was not briefed about the meeting afterwards. I certainly didn’t brief any journalists about the meeting about which I knew nothing.

“It is entirely without foundation.”

Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer suggested visas could be needed for 100,000 lorry drivers, rather than the 5,000 announced by ministers, to tackle the shortage.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We have to issue enough visas to cover the number of drivers that we need.”