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Petrol crisis: whistle-blower blamed for panic-buying ‘mayhem’

Ministers play down shortages fears and insist UK has ‘plenty of petrol’

Environment Secretary George Eustice has urged motorists not to stockpile fuel as reports of petrol shortages spark panic across the UK.  

The panic-buying “reached fever pitch” over the weekend, said the Daily Mail, with fights breaking out on some petrol station forecourts. Drivers queued for “four hours or more in lines stretching for miles and some even slept in their cars outside petrol stations”, according to the newspaper. 

The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents nearly 5,500 of the UK’s 8,000 stations, yesterday warned that up to two-thirds of outlets were out of fuel, with the remainder “partly dry and running out soon”, the BBC reported. 

But Eustice insisted today that the UK has “plenty of petrol” and that “there isn’t a shortage”. The “cause of these current problems is panic-buying”, he told broadcasters, and “the most important thing is for people to start buying petrol as they normally would”.

Panic ‘triggered by leak’

The transport secretary yesterday accused a haulage group of sparking the petrol panic-buying, the Independent reported. Grant Shapps said the queues and closures at stations were a “manufactured situation” created by the Road Haulage Association (RHA) leaking comments from BP bosses about supply concerns.

Speaking to Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme, Shapps said: “There was a meeting that took place about ten days ago, a private meeting in which one of the haulage associations decided to leak the details to media, and that has created, as we have seen, quite a large degree of concern as people naturally react to those things.” 

The chair of the Petrol Retailers Association, Brian Madderson, also blamed the alleged leak for the frenzied scenes at petrol stations. “Immediately that happened, there was panic-buying from Thursday, Friday, Saturday and yesterday,” he told Sky News.

“We just really didn’t need this whistle-blower to set off panic buying and cause mayhem that we know have - it was a completely irresponsible action.”

McKenzie denies ‘nonsense’ report

Ministers have pointed the finger specifically at Rod McKenzie, the managing director of policy at the RHA. The Mail on Sunday reported that McKenzie is accused of “selectively leaking remarks made by a BP executive at a private government meeting”.

Denying the claims, McKenzie told the PA news agency: “The allegation against me is nonsense. I was not in the meeting. I was not briefed about the meeting afterwards. I certainly didn’t brief any journalists about the meeting about which I knew nothing.”

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