Petrol sales up amid strike threat

Swindon Advertiser: Actions aimed at averting a strike by fuel tanker drivers are being stepped up Actions aimed at averting a strike by fuel tanker drivers are being stepped up

Sales of petrol and diesel have increased dramatically as motorists flocked to garages to fill up following controversial advice from the Government ahead of a possible strike by fuel tanker drivers.

Petrol sales shot up by 81% and diesel by 43%, according to the Petrol Retailers Association, which represents around 5,500 garages across the UK.

A spokesman blamed advice from the Government on keeping tanks topped up, including the much-criticised call by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude to fill up jerry cans.

"This is exactly what we didn't want - people panic buying. Deliveries are still being made to garages and we are advising people to continue with their normal buying habits."

Moves to start peace talks aimed at averting a strike will be stepped up, with the conciliation service Acas trying to arrange a meeting between the Unite union and seven companies involved in the dispute. Unite will have to give seven days' notice of any industrial action, so it was looking increasingly unlikely that strikes will be threatened over Easter.

The AA said current fuel shortages were the result of poor advice and rumours leading to panic buying. AA president Edmund King said: "There is no fuel tanker strike and therefore if drivers followed normal fuel buying patterns there would be no fuel shortage whatsoever.

"We now have self-inflicted shortages due to poor advice about topping up the tank and hoarding in jerry cans. This in turn has led to localised shortages, queues and some profiteering at the pumps."

Labour accused the Government of playing "political games" over the issue, following days of bad headlines over the Budget and dinners for Tory donors.

Opposition leader Ed Miliband said: "The Prime Minister is presiding over a shambles on petrol. The country is paying the price for the incompetent way he is governing."

Energy Secretary Ed Davey defended Mr Maude's handling of the situation, telling BBC Radio 5 Live: "People should take precautions, just in the way the Government has taken precautions doing some sensible planning."

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