Fuel stock levels trending up in all parts of UK, says Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng
Data suggests the fuel crisis is “stabilising” with forecourt stock levels trending up in all parts of the UK, Kwasi Kwarteng has said.
After visiting members of his department working on fuel supply, the business secretary said the situation at pumps across the country is continuing to improve.
It comes as The Times newspaper suggested earlier on Thursday that while the issue is easing in many areas in the north of England, swathes of the south of the country are still suffering from significant fuel shortages.
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Earlier on Thursday, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke told Sky News the crisis is “back under control” as more fuel is now being delivered to petrol stations than is being sold.
After days of long queues at petrol stations and with many running out of fuel, Mr Clarke said the main message is “there is enough fuel”.
But retailers have warned that petrol stations are still running out of fuel faster than they can be resupplied amid reports of long queues continuing in some parts of the country.
The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) suggested the easing of the situation in recent days appeared to have stalled, with 27% of stations having run dry – the same percentage as on Wednesday.
But disputing this, Mr Clarke told Sky News’ Kay Burley on Thursday morning: “That crisis is now absolutely something which is back under control.
“More fuel is now being delivered to petrol stations than sold, we’re confident the commercial market can resolve this.”
And posting on social media later on Thursday, Mr Kwarteng added: “Data suggests we are continuing to see signs that the situation at the pumps is stabilising + in all parts of the UK forecourt stock levels are trending up.”
On Thursday morning, Mr Clarke told Sky News that 60% of petrol stations were out of fuel, but as of Wednesday, that was down to 27% and that situation “will continue to improve”.
Ministers have begun deploying the government’s reserve tanker fleet – driven by civilian drivers – to support the resupply of filling stations.
Mr Clarke confirmed 150 army drivers are still on standby to drive tankers if needed as the shortage has been caused by a lack of HGV drivers, but so far they have not been used.
“The most important message is the resilience of the fuel supply chain is improving,” Mr Clarke said.
“If people just shop normally, this will correct itself.”
Mr Clarke said there are now 4,000 provisional HGV licence applications in the system and the government is trying to bring the processing time down to below five days to help the driver shortage.
“We are working flat out to make sure we train more drivers, we’re increasing testing, so we can make sure they pass their test,” he added.
But motorists continue to say there is not enough fuel.
Some roads around London have become gridlocked as drivers hunted for fuel, with some filling up water bottles and reports of violence.
Executive director of PRA, Gordon Balmer, said: “PRA members are reporting that whilst they are continuing to take further deliveries of fuel, this is running out quicker than usual due to unprecedented demand.
“We would urge drivers to maintain their buying habits and only fuel up as and when needed to ensure there is plenty of fuel to go around.
“It is important to remember that fuel stocks remain normal at refineries and terminals, and deliveries have been reduced solely due to the shortage of HGV drivers.”
Mr Balmer added that forecourt staff were being subjected to a “high level” of physical and verbal abuse from frustrated drivers.
Video footage emerged of a man wielding a knife at other drivers as tempers boiled over during long waits for fuel.
The AA said that while queues remained at stations across London, the South of England and in built up areas, there were “encouraging signs of stability”.
AA president Edmund King said: “Most drivers have managed to find fuel, but might have had to travel to several filling stations or to queue.
“A large proportion of drivers changed their refuelling habits over the last five days, and this should now allow forecourts to restock and find their feet again.”
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