Fuel strike threat: Maude's jerrycan advice 'a mistake'
Published: 29th Mar 2012 03:32:59
The government made a mistake in advising people to store petrol in jerrycans at home to prepare for a possible strike by fuel tanker drivers, a transport minister has said.
Mike Penning said Cabinet Minister Francis Maude had misunderstood the size of a jerrycan, which is 20 litres.
The government says drivers should top up tanks, but "not panic".
Labour has accused ministers of "stoking up" the drivers' threat to strike over working conditions and pay.
The party said ministers were making the situation worse, while petrol retailers said the government was intent on "creating a crisis out of a serious concern".
According to the Retail Motor Industry Federation, petrol sales rose by 45% on Tuesday and diesel was up 20% amid talk of a strike bringing disruption to forecourt supplies.
Unite, the UK's biggest trade union, has called for minimum standards covering pay, hours, holiday and redundancy for fuel tanker drivers.
It represents about 2,000 drivers who deliver fuel to Shell and Esso garages, as well as supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury's.
David Cameron: "No need to queue up for fuel"
The union's drivers, who supply 90% of UK forecourts, have voted to strike, although no dates have been set.
Conciliation service Acas is attempting to convene talks between Unite and seven companies involved in the dispute.
An Acas spokesman said: "We are in urgent discussions with the parties involved on an individual basis. It is normal for us to do this to establish the format for talks."
On Wednesday, Mr Maude's advice for drivers to store petrol - "maybe a little bit in the garage as well in a jerrycan" - was criticised by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the AA, who said it was potentially dangerous.
There is no shortage of fuel at present and forecourts are being replenished”
Labour accused the minister of "panicking people all around the country", which it said was "incredibly irresponsible".
A jerrycan has the capacity to hold 20 litres - more than the official limit for the amount that can be safely stored at home.
Mr Penning, the roads minister, later told BBC Two's Newsnight: "You can't store that amount of petrol. It was a mistake by the cabinet minister. He didn't understand the size of a jerrycan. He has apologised since."
However, he insisted that Mr Maude had been right to advise drivers to keep their petrol tanks full as the seven days' notice the union is required to give before going on strike would leave little time to prepare.
"Seven days isn't enough to actually make sure we have the facilities and the amount of fuel we need to go forward. If they go on strike the country will have a problem. Let's be prepared for that in case it happens," said Mr Penning.
He added: "Let's not panic, let's not queue, but be prepared."
Also speaking to Newsnight, shadow treasury minister Chris Leslie accused the government of "stoking up" the problems through ministers "misspeaking", and singled out Mr Maude.
Mr Leslie said: "Apparently he's now said [the jerrycan advice] was a mistake. I haven't heard him say that. I'm not sure whether the public have as well."
Tanker strike threat: Are motorists panic buying?
After a meeting of the civil contingencies committee Cobra on Wednesday, a Downing Street spokesman said there was no need to queue for petrol.
"In the normal course of business, motorists should consider keeping their tanks topped up. But there is no shortage of fuel at present and forecourts are being replenished," he said.
He reiterated Prime Minister David Cameron's earlier message that any strike would be "unjustified" and said talks needed to continue to avert industrial action.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said "it was in the interests" of the public for all sides to meet and negotiate.
Amid reports of increased demand for fuel at some petrol stations, Esso said that "some sites may temporarily be out of one or two types of fuel".
Shell reported "business as normal" and Tesco said it was experiencing "an increase in sales in some areas" but reassured customers it was working hard to meet that demand.
Asda said it was "working flat out behind the scenes to keep petrol in stock. We apologise to customers if they find some pumps are running low", but added "there's no need for customers to change their petrol-buying routine".
Have you been queuing for petrol? Are you worried about the possible strike? Send us your stories using the form below.
Send your pictures and videos to email@example.com or text them to 61124 (UK) or +44 7624 800 100 (International). If you have a large file you can upload here.
Read the terms and conditions
If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.
Terms and conditions
At 12:58:39 in EnglandA poem about the killing of PC Keith Blakelock during riots in north London was written by the man accused of his murder, a court has heard.
At 12:58:21 in SportKent have announced a pre-interest and pre-tax profit of £156,778 for the financial year to November 2013.
At 12:56:04 in ScotlandA hamster has been found abandoned inside a plastic play tube in Edinburgh.
At 12:55:09 in BusinessThe sometimes fraught relationship between leaseholders and their freeholders is going to be investigated by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).
At 12:54:04 in HeadlinesIndia's Supreme Court has ordered the continuing detention of businessman Subrata Roy and asked his firm to come up with a plan to repay its investors.
At 12:53:21 in SportCrystal Palace winger Jason Puncheon has been fined £15,000 by the Football Association and warned about his future conduct for Twitter comments he made in relation to former boss Neil Warnock.
At 12:52:43 in HeadlinesA second witness at the murder trial of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has told a court in the capital Pretoria she was awoken by the sounds of a fight early on 14 February 2013.
At 12:42:01 in PoliticsThere is a risk that "deliberate provocation" could give rise to a dangerous incident in Ukraine, Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned.
At 12:41:48 in EnglandA residential treatment programme for addicts which closed in Yeovil is to reopen after the charity running it merged with another organisation.
At 12:40:03 in ScotlandPolice Scotland has exceeded its target to recruit 1,000 additional officers.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Fuel strike threat: Maude's jerrycan advice 'a mistake' [Online] (Updated 29th Mar 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1419377/Fuel-strike-threat-Maudes-jerrycan-advice-a-mistake [Accessed 8th Mar 2014]
News In Other Categories
A hamster has been found abandoned inside a plastic play tube in Edinburgh.
A poem about the killing of PC Keith Blakelock during riots in north London was written by the man accused of his murder, a court has heard.
There is a risk that "deliberate provocation" could give rise to a dangerous incident in Ukraine, Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned.
Two hospitals missed opportunities to take action against a consultant breast surgeon who was performing unnecessary or incomplete operations, a review has found.
Fawlty Towers star Prunella Scales has "a sort of mild Alzheimer's", her husband Tim West has revealed in the Radio Times.
The sometimes fraught relationship between leaseholders and their freeholders is going to be investigated by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).