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Boris Johnson has said the government is putting in place measures to help avoid a petrol crisis in the run-up to Christmas as the prime minister suggested the situation on filling station forecourts is “stabilising”.
Following days of chaos, with long queues for petrol and stations running dry, the PM said he understood the frustration felt by drivers as they struggled to fill up.
Johnson said the government was putting in place measures to ensure the entire supply chain could “get through to Christmas and beyond”.
“I want to say first of all how much I sympathise with people who have been worried about their journeys, worried about whether they will be able to use their cars in the normal way,” he said in a pooled interview with broadcasters.
“I know how frustrating and worrying it must have been to worry about a shortage of petrol and fuel.
“We are now starting to see the situation improve. We are hearing from industry that supplies are coming back on to the forecourts in the normal way.
“What we want to do is to make sure we have the preparations necessary to get through to Christmas and beyond, not just in the supply of our petrol stations but all parts of our supply chain.”
Johnson urged motorists to go about their business in the normal way despite saying that the indications from the industry were that the situation was beginning to improve with supplies returning to normal levels.
“On the forecourts the situation is stabilising and people should be confident and just go about their business in the normal way,” he added.
His appeal came as Keir Starmer accused the government of reducing the country to “chaos” through its failure to deal with the fuel crisis.
The Labour leader said the haulage industry was “beyond frustrated” at the lack of a clear plan by ministers to alleviate the problems caused by the shortage of tanker drivers.
The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) reporting “early signs” that the crisis was coming to an end, the prime minister expressed confidence the worst was over.
Johnson rejected calls for healthcare staff and other workers to be given priority access to fuel, suggesting it was unnecessary given the easing of the situation.
After the government announced it would be issuing 5,000 temporary visas to foreign lorry drivers to alleviate the shortages which led to the crisis, he also dismissed demands for more overseas workers to be admitted.
“What we want to see is a an emphasis on a high wage, high skill, high productivity approach to our economy,” he said.
“What I don’t think people in this country want to do is fix all our problems with uncontrolled immigration.
“We tried that for a long time and in the end, people could see that it was leading to a low wage, low skill approach without enough investment in people or in equipment.
“That’s not the way we want the UK to develop and grow.”
Ministers have insisted throughout the crisis that fuel stocks remain high and that panic buying was unnecessary.
They argued the sudden surge in demand was driven by reports of of a shortage of a small number of tanker drivers leading to some hold-up in deliveries.
Nevertheless the government announced on Monday that it was putting troops on standby to drive tankers as a “precautionary step” if problems persisted.
The request for military assistance to the civil authorities (Maca) request has been approved, with up to 150 drivers and the same number of drivers’ mates potentially able to be used.
A government source said the troops were “still on standby but can now start training now it’s approved”. They could be deployed in the coming days if required.