Now motorists are told to drive slower, as jerrycan bungle minister is sidelined

 

The latest advice from the Government to motorists to avoid a petrol crisis is to drive slower.

The Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude is to be sidelined as the Government's face of the fuel haulier dispute following his off-the-cuff remarks advising the public to fill jerry cans with fuel led to days of panic buying.

The official advice was yesterday toned down from last week's recommendation to keep tanks topped up and Mr Maude's suggestion to motorists to fill up jerry cans. The Government now suggests that there is "no urgency to top up your tank" as the strike will not happen over Easter.

Unite pointed out that an Easter strike had never been realistic as it would have had to have given seven days notice and was first committed to talks with employers to settle the dispute.

Yesterday it was announced that those talks between unions and seven fuel distribution firms would begin at the conciliation service Acas on Wednesday. An Acas spokesman said: "We have now held briefings with all the relevant parties and can confirm that substantive conciliation talks will now take place."

Yesterday, in an attempt to calm the row over the Government's strategy of encouraging motorists to stock up on fuel ahead of any strike, the Prime Minister's spokesman said the Government was urging motorists to check on the latest situation using the Department of Energy's website.

Yesterday it stated that: "There is no need to queue at petrol forecourts. There is no urgency to top up your tank, a strike will not happen over Easter. Check travel sites and latest news before travelling. Stick to speed limits as this helps conserve fuel."

Asked if David Cameron had full confidence in Mr Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, following last week's panic buying, the Prime Minister's official spokesman replied: "Yes."

But when pressed over whether Mr Maude remained the lead minister dealing with the issue, the spokesman said he was "in charge" of the part of the Cabinet Office that deals with civil contingencies but the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was the "lead department". Downing Street sources later confirmed that Mr Maude would no longer be the public face of the dispute.

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