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Johnson insists petrol crisis ‘stabilising’ as he prepares to save Christmas


By PA News

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Troops will begin training to help deliver petrol supplies as Boris Johnson said he was making preparations to deal with potential problems until “Christmas and beyond”.

The Prime Minister said the situation on the filling station forecourts is “stabilising” as he urged motorists to go about their business in the normal way.

A decision to put 150 military drivers on standby has been formally approved, meaning they can begin training in case they are required.

A further 150 drivers’ mates are also ready to help out as part of the military effort.

“They’re still on standby but can now start training now it’s approved,” a Government source said.

They will be held in a “state of readiness” and could deployed “in the coming days” if needed, sources said.

Officials from the business department and the Ministry of Defence are working with the petrol industry on where the drivers will be best placed to support.

On Tuesday Mr Johnson tried to calm nerves about the supply chain problems affecting businesses across the country.

“We now are starting to see the situation improve, we’re hearing from industry that supply is coming back onto the forecourt in the normal way.

“And I would just really urge everybody to just go about their business in the normal way and fill up in the normal way when you really need it and you know, things will start to improve.

“What we want to do is make sure that we have all the preparations necessary to get through to Christmas and beyond, not just in the supply in the petrol stations, but all parts of our supply chain.”

Following days of chaos, with long queues for petrol and stations running dry, the Prime Minister said he understood the frustration felt by drivers as they struggled to fill up.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the Government of reducing the country to “chaos” through its failure to deal with the fuel crisis.

The Labour leader said the haulage industry was “beyond frustrated” at the lack of a clear plan by ministers to alleviate the problems caused by the shortage of tanker drivers.

“The Government has reduced the country to chaos as we track from crisis to crisis.

“The Government is not gripping this,” he told BBC News.

Drivers queue for fuel at an Esso petrol station in Bournville, Birmingham (Jacob King/PA)
Drivers queue for fuel at an Esso petrol station in Bournville, Birmingham (Jacob King/PA)

“This problem was predictable and predicted and the Government has absolutely failed to plan.”

Mr Johnson rejected calls for healthcare staff and other workers to be given priority access to fuel, suggesting it was unnecessary given the easing of the situation.

After the Government announced it would be issuing 5,000 temporary visas to foreign lorry drivers to alleviate the shortages which led to the crisis, he also dismissed demands for more overseas workers to be admitted.

Long queues have continued at petrol stations, despite reports the situation is easing (Jacob King/PA)
Long queues have continued at petrol stations, despite reports the situation is easing (Jacob King/PA)

“What I don’t think people in this country want to do is fix all our problems with uncontrolled immigration,” he said.

His comments came after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps acknowledged that Brexit, which cut off the supply of drivers from the EU, had been a “factor” in the crisis.

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