Fuel shortages: Boris Johnson draws back from deploying army troops to help with fuel crisis

Boris Johnson was said to be considering sending in the army to drive oil tankers as petrol shortages continue

The Prime Minister has drawn back from sending in soldiers to deliver fuel to petrol stations as pumps run dry after days of panic buying.

Mr Johnson was reported to be considering activating Operation Escalin to use troops to drive tankers to petrol stations, amid a continuing shortage of HGV drivers.

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However, the government has now stated there are currently no plans to bring in troops to help with the fuel crisis.

Emergency measures were triggered on 26 September with Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng choosing to suspend competition laws for the fuel industry to allow suppliers to target filling stations running low.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • Boris Johnson was reported to be considering activating Operation Escalin to use troops to drive tankers to petrol stations, amid a continuing shortage of HGV drivers.
  • Downing Street has said the Government is monitoring the situation on a daily basis but there are currently no plans to use the military to drive fuel tankers.
  • Ministers have issued a fresh appeal to motorists to stop “panic buying”. It is hoped pressure will ease as motorists move back to their routine buying patterns.
  • There was little sign of queues easing over the weekend, while doctors groups warned some medical staff were struggling to get to work because they could not fill up their cars.
  • The surge in demand led the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) to warn that as many as two-thirds of its membership of nearly 5,500 independent outlets were out of fuel on Sunday, with the rest of them “partly dry and running out soon”

What’s been said

“Obviously we will continue to look at all options and make sure preparatory steps are taken across government should further measures be needed,” a government spokesman said.

“We are not currently bringing in the military to drive tankers.”

Ministers have made a fresh appeal for motorists to stop panic buying amid fuel shortages at pumps.

Environment Secretary George Eustice insisted there was no need for shortages at the pumps and blamed motorists for filling up when they did not need to.

“There isn’t a shortage (of fuel). The cause of these current problems is that panic-buying episode and the most important thing is for people to start buying petrol as they normally would.

Out of service signs have been seen on fuel pumps at many garages up and down the country after forecourts run out of petrol and diesal (image: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Background

Concerns from BP were leaked to the media that the lorry driver shortage could impact its ability to keep up with fuel deliveries.

In a separate joint statement from the likes of Shell, ExxonMobile and Greenergy, the industry reiterated that the pressures on supply were being caused by “temporary spikes in customer demand, not a national shortage of fuel”.

As part of Government efforts to relieve wider supply chain pressures, 5,500 foreign worker visas will also be made available to the poultry sector as it strives to ensure a healthy array of turkeys are available for Christmas dinners.

Shapps said visas were “only one element” of the Government’s relief plan, as he admitted efforts to rebuild the domestic freight workforce could take years.

The package of measures involves ambitions to train 4,000 more lorry drivers, while the Army have been drafted in to provide extra HGV driving tests to reduce the backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.

Nearly one million letters will also be landing on the doormats of people with HGV licences in the coming days enticing them to return to the job now that wages have risen.

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