‘A really big problem’: Petrol retailers chief warns fuel crisis getting worse in some parts of UK – as army deployed

Fuel shortages are getting worse in some parts of the UK, the Petrol Retailers Association has warned – as the army prepares to step in to ease the crisis.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said the situation was “stabilising” in most parts of the country and that the military was only being deployed as a “precaution”.

But Brian Madderson, chairman of the PRA, said a lack of fuel remained a “really big problem” in London and the south east.

“In London and the South East and possibly parts of eastern England, if anything it had got worse,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He said the deployment of the military to help would improve the situation but would not be “the major panacea”.

Mr Javid looked to allay fears, however, telling Sky News: “I think it is right that as a precaution that the government has asked the military to help.

“I think that is the right measure to take to make sure that people have all the confidence that they need.

“I think that will further stabilise the situation and give more confidence.”

Senior ministers have been alarmed at how slowly the fuel supply disruption is improving, Sky News understands. After a week of forecourt chaos, motorists are still being forced to queue for hours at petrol stations around the country.

Announcing the plan to bring in the army, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Across the weekend over 200 military personnel will have been mobilised as part of Operation Escalin.

“While the situation is stabilising, our armed forces are there to fill in any critical vacancies and help keep the country on the move by supporting the industry to deliver fuel to forecourts.”

Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay – who is in charge of the government’s response to the fuel crisis – appealed to motorists to stop panic buying at the pumps

“The government has taken decisive action to tackle the short-term disruption to our supply chains, and in particular the flow of fuel to forecourts,” he said.

“We are now seeing the impact of these interventions with more fuel being delivered to forecourts than sold and, if people continue to revert to their normal buying patterns, we will see smaller queues and prevent petrol stations closing.”

The government has also announced a temporary visa scheme for nearly 5,000 foreign food and haulage drivers that was due to expire on 24 December will now be extended to the end of February following criticism of the scheme.

Sir Keir Starmer said the temporary visa scheme would not be up and running “for weeks”, and that the Prime Minister should recall Parliament if necessary to rush through legislation to ensure shop shelves remain stocked in the run up to Christmas.

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The decision to send in the army came as Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, warned shortages of goods could last until Christmas, with “real disruption in supply chains” not just in the UK but around the world.

One petrol forecourt owner, Mike Stayte told Sky News that deliveries were still unreliable, adding: “It’s peaks and troughs – one day you’re flat out or you’ll be taking three times as much as you normally do.

“The next day you run out of fuel and you’re sat there looking silly at each other, and things like sandwiches and food don’t get sold because people don’t come in.”

Mr Stayte, who owns John Stayte Services in Gloucestershire, said the chances of him receiving deliveries were “50/50”.

Applegates Coaches in Gloucestershire stores a week’s worth of fuel, but the rising cost from suppliers has left them out of pocket.

Owner Ceri Taylor said: “We quoted for work 12, six months ago, even a week ago at a fuel rate we thought we were going to get – and it has gone up by about 20, 25% so we’re running at a loss really.”

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