Government Criticised Over Jerrycan Advice
|Shadow transport minister Mike Penning has said the government made a mistake in advising people to store petrol in jerrycans at home to prepare for a possible strike by fuel tanker drivers.
The government has advised drivers to top up tanks with fuel, but to “not panic”. Penning said cabinet minister Francis Maude had misunderstood the size of a jerrycan, which is 20 litres.
Labour has accused ministers of making the situation worse by “stoking up” the threat of a tanker driver’s strike, with petrol retailers saying the government was intent on "creating a crisis out of a serious concern".
According to the Retail Motor Industry Federation, petrol sales rose by 45% on Tuesday and diesel was up 20% amid talk of a strike bringing disruption to forecourt supplies.
The threat of strike action has arisen after trade union Unite called for minimum standards covering pay, hours, holidays and redundancy for tanker drivers.
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Unite is the UK’s biggest trade union and represents around 2,000 drivers delivering fuel to Shell and Esso garages, and supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
The drivers have voted to strike but no date has been set.
Mr Maude’s advice to drivers to store petrol - "maybe a little bit in the garage as well in a jerrycan" – was also criticised by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the AA, who said it was potentially dangerous.
A jerrycan has a capacity of 20 litres, which is more than the official limit for the amount that can be safely stored at home.
"You can't store that amount of petrol,” Mr Penning, the roads minister, told BBC Two's Newsnight.
“It was a mistake by the cabinet minister. He didn't understand the size of a jerrycan. He has apologised since."
However, he insisted that Mr Maude had been right to advise drivers to keep their petrol tanks full as the seven days' notice the union is required to give before going on strike would leave little time to prepare.
"Seven days isn't enough to actually make sure we have the facilities and the amount of fuel we need to go forward. If they go on strike the country will have a problem. Let's be prepared for that in case it happens," said Mr Penning.
Adding: "Let's not panic, let's not queue, but be prepared."
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