Advice row

How ministers fanned the flames of fuel strike panic

 

The briefing by the Prime Minister’s official spokeswoman took journalists by surprise.

Asked what the Government’s advice to motorists was with the threat or an impending strike by petrol hauliers she replied that businesses and individuals should make whatever contingency plans they deemed necessary.

Pushed on whether she was advising motorist to panic buy she didn’t retreat. Motorists “will draw their own conclusions”, she said.

At first it was suggested that the move was part of a cynical attempt by Downing Street to move the news agenda on from tales of late night supper for Tory donors in Downing Street.

But as motorists up and down the country took the Government’s advice to heart it became clear in Westminster that the move was actually part of a deliberate strategy to try and undermine the effectiveness of any strike before it happened.

Ministers were working under the assumption that, because of the financial costs to the workers involved, if and when the strikes do happen they will last no longer than four days at a time.

One said that they had calculated that there is three times more petrol storage capacity in people car tanks than there is nationally in forecourts and storage facilities.

Far better, their argument went, that motorists panic bought now when fuel supplies were running normally than in the few days running up to a strike when supplies were about to be suspended.

But quite apart from the dangers of people stockpiling gerry-cans of flammable fuel in their homes for the next few weeks the Government initiative appears to have other flaws as well.

The Retail Motor Industry Federation estimates there are now 6,000 fewer forecourts than there were at the time of the fuel blockade in 2000 making it far easier than it was for fuel shortages to become a self-fulfilling prophecy – even with supplies uninterrupted.

This could mean some petrol stations temporarily running out of fuel and making it harder for those who really do need petrol to get it.

And then there is the crying wolf problem. With unions and employers likely to sit down at the conciliation service ACAS in the next few days any strike is now likely to be weeks away – by which time most of the hoarded fuel will have run out.

Next time motorists will probably wait for an actual strike announcement before panic buying – causing exactly the problem the Government wanted to avoid.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager - Events, Digital, Offline

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager (Events, Digit...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable