Senior Tories attack slow government response to fuel supply crisis as Boris Johnson calls for calm

Senior Tories have accused Boris Johnson of doing “too little, too late” to ease the ongoing fuel supply crisis after ministers admitted the queues for petrol could continue for days. 

The Prime Minister insisted the situation at filling station forecourts was “stabilising” and that additional emergency measures were unlikely to be needed as he said supplies were coming back “in the normal way”. 

However, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that while the overall picture was improving, queues were likely to continue due to ongoing increased demand. 

Conservative MPs voiced their frustration over the Government’s response to the crisis, and warned worse could be yet to come due to an acute shortage of HGV drivers in the UK. 

Sir Roger Gale told i ministers have been reluctant to turn to workers from overseas due to “dog whistle politics on immigration”, which he said had left the Government taking action too late.

“We have known about the shortage of HGV drivers for some time, this was seen coming. It has been too little, too late. If we were serious, we would be offering visas for longer than just three months,” Sir Roger said. 

He added: “There is a growing resignation among the backbenches that we are heading for more shortages in the run-up to Christmas and we should be doing something about it. You can’t just magic up HGV drivers.”

His comments were echoed by Tobias Ellwood, chair of the Commons Defence Committee who said the Government needed to show it had a clear plan for dealing with the crisis.

“Simply hoping this situation will return to normal is not a strategy,” he told Sky News.

“I believe the Army should not just be put on standby but in fact mobilised, be seen to be used. That will help ease the pressure on shortages, of course, and it will return public confidence.”

Tuesday saw a return of lengthy queues with fights breaking out at filling stations, with one man being sought by the police for brandishing a knife at another driver. 

Mr Johnson attempted to paint a calmer picture of the situation, insisting that supplies were returning and that more petrol stations were receiving fuel. 

He appeared to blame the spate of panic buying seen in recent days on a “slightly misleading” account of the shortages of lorry drivers, and added that the shortage of lorry drivers in the fuel sector “isn’t very big”. 

However, he rejected calls to import workers from abroad, adding: “What we want to see is an emphasis on a high wage, a high-skill, a high-productivity approach to our economy.”

In recent days the Government has introduced temporary visas for more than 10,000 HGV drivers and poultry workers, while it has extended until January driving licences due to expire and put the Army on standby to help with the supply chain crisis. 

Mr Johnson added: “What we want to do is to make sure we have all the preparations needed to get through to Christmas and beyond, not just in supply for petrol stations but all parts of the supply chain.” 

Gordon Balmer, Executive Director at the Petrol Retailers Association said there are “early signs that the crisis at pumps is ending”.

“Fuel stocks remain normal at refineries and terminals, although deliveries have been reduced due to the shortage of HGV drivers.”

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