Fuel frenzy spreads – but at least it's good news for the Treasury

Government is raking in an extra £32m in excise duties thanks to the panic buying it sparked at the petrol pumps

Long queues snaked back from forecourts again yesterday, garages shut after drying up and the Prime Minister was accused of presiding over a shambles. But there was one piece of good news for the Government from the ongoing row over fuel tanker drivers' threatened strike action: the petrol panic buying triggered by ministers' advice will bring an extra £32m to the Treasury's coffers from fuel excise duty.

Sales of petrol are estimated to have risen 81 per cent in just 24 hours and diesel by 43 per cent, following the Government's exhortation that drivers keep tanks topped up ahead of possible industrial action.

Dorset Police were so concerned about forecourt queues tailing out into main roads that they asked some petrol stations to close. In Hampshire, some closed voluntarily, while in other parts of the country motorists waited for half an hour or more to fill up.

Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, accused David Cameron of incompetence and demanded apologies from both him and Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, who had urged the public to hoard petrol in jerry cans.

"The Prime Minister is presiding over a shambles on petrol," he said. "In a delicate situation which demanded statesmanship, the Government showed partisanship. They made a crude decision to play politics with petrol without regard for the consequence."

Motorists' fury at the way the dispute has been handled is likely to be further inflamed by the AA's calculation that the panic buying will bring an extra £32m to the Treasury's coffers from fuel excise duty.

Yet the Chancellor, George Osborne, insisted that advice given by ministers was part of "sensible contingency plans". "The reason why people are concerned about fuel supplies is because we have a trade union that is threatening a strike that is potentially going to disrupt those supplies," he told the BBC. "The trade union has a responsibility to call off the threat of strike action, it is the last thing the British economy needs at a time like this."

The situation looks unlikely to be resolved in the immediate future. Talks aimed at heading off a strike by tanker drivers in the Unite union – one of Labour's main funders – will now not take place until at least Monday. The failure to get the dispute settled quickly was a further blow to motoring organisations, which attacked the Government for creating fuel supply problems through bad advice.

AA president Edmund King said: "There is no fuel tanker strike and therefore if drivers followed normal fuel buying patterns there would be no fuel shortage whatsoever.

"Even if we do have a strike, which is unlikely, there will be seven days' notice of strike action, and therefore time for drivers to fill up. We now have self-inflicted shortages due to poor advice about topping up the tank and hoarding in jerry cans. This in turn has led to localised shortages, queues and some profiteering at the pumps."

The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents around 5,500 garages, said: "This is exactly what we didn't want – people panic buying. Deliveries are still being made to garages and we are advising people to continue with their normal buying habits."

Hampshire Police issued a warning against panic buying in the county last night: "Spurious rumours that are being spread online and through other mediums clearly have the potential to engender panic buying so it is in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy when there really isn't an issue at this time," said a spokeswoman.

Airport staff to walk out at Easter over pay

Baggage handlers at Stansted airport are to strike over Easter due to a row over pay, threatening disruption to passengers. The move follows an overwhelming vote in favour of industrial action by 150 members of the GMB union employed by Swissport, after claims that shift changes would lead to wage cuts of up to £1,000.

The GMB said strikes will be held on Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Monday.

Union official Gary Pearce said Swissport would be "entirely to blame" for any disruption caused, but that more talks are due to take place to avoid the action.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all