Ministers are bracing for the ‘EFFing crisis’ to last for months as they admitted lengthy queues and empty fuel pumps at the nation’s petrol stations are likely to continue for at least another week.
Government insiders are said to have given the ongoing disruption the ‘EFFing’ label in reference to problems in the energy, fuel and food sectors.
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said this morning that the fuel situation should be resolved in a ‘week or so’.
Mr Malthouse said there needs to be an ‘improvement’ in the situation in the coming days and that Boris Johnson stands ready to review matters if there is any deterioration.
But even if the fuel debacle is resolved, ministers expect problems in other areas to continue in the months ahead.
A massive increase in the wholesale cost of gas has prompted a handful of energy firms to collapse, with consumers facing skyrocketing bills this winter.
A huge shortfall in HGV driver numbers is already hitting supply chains, with reports of empty shelves in some supermarkets as industry chiefs predict there will be further food and potentially even toy shortages this Christmas.
A shortage of food processing workers and butchers is adding to the disruption, with farmers warning they are running out of room because of growing animal numbers and they could soon be forced to start a ‘mass cull’.
It came as pictures suggested that reserve petrol tankers have been unable to leave a storage yard amid a continuing shortage of drivers.
Approximately 40 reserve petrol tankers continue to sit in storage in Fenstanton, Cambridgeshire today despite the ongoing fuel crisis due to widespread driver shortages across the haulier industry.
Pictures taken in Kent, Reading and London this morning show panic buying continuing, while bus routes were subject to delays in the early hours of the morning as huge queues continued to form at forecourts across much of the country.
Average fuel levels at UK petrol stations yesterday were at 20 per cent for the third day running – less than half the normal figure of 43 per cent – but Whitehall analysis showed a drastically varying picture by region.
Mr Malthouse’s downbeat assessment contrasted sharply with comments by other ministers in recent days that the situation would swiftly return to normal as drivers resumed their usual buying patterns.
It follows a warning by the Petrol Retailers Association that filling stations were running out of fuel faster than they could be resupplied, with one in four forecourts having run dry.
Writing in The Times, The Spectator’s political editor James Forsyth said ministers believe the so-called ‘EFFing crisis’ will continue throughout the autumn months.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse said the fuel situation was stabilising and that motorists could see a return to normality within a ‘week or so’
Government insiders are said to have given the ongoing disruption the ‘EFFing’ label in reference to problems in the energy, fuel and food sectors. A supermarket in north London is pictured today
A huge shortfall in HGV driver numbers is hitting supply chains, with industry chiefs predicting some food and even toy shortages this Christmas
READING, BERKSHIRE – A Hoyer fuel delivery refills the pumps at an Esso in Emmer Green, Reading as motorists continue to queue on Friday
RICHMOND, SOUTH WEST LONDON – Motorists are seen in huge queues at a Sainsbury’s-run petrol station in the capital on Friday
ASHFORD, KENT – Motorists queue for fuel at an Esso petrol station on Friday, October 1
CLAPHAM, SOUTH LONDON – Motorists line the streets in front of a petrol station in the early hours of Friday morning as the eighth day of fuel chaos continued
FERRING, WEST SUSSEX – An Asda petrol station is closed off to the public over fuel shortages
Traffic chaos continues in Ashford, Kent as motorists block roads and junctions in their desperate bid for fuel
Bus routes were subject to delays in the early hours of Friday morning as huge queues continue to form at forecourts across much of the country
Farmer is forced to slaughter hundreds of healthy piglets because shortages of butchers and abattoir workers mean adult pigs are not being killed fast enough
A farmer has been forced to slaughter hundreds of piglets due to staff shortages at the local abattoir leaving too many stacked up on his farm.
The Yorkshire stockman, who has not been named, took the drastic measure because slaughterhouses were not killing them fast enough.
A friend said he had been ‘destroyed’ by having to ‘kill perfectly healthy, viable piglets’ due to the backlog.
It comes as the National Pig Association warned the UK is heading into an ‘acute welfare disaster very quickly’ with the country facing a ‘mass cull of animals’.
Chairman Rob Mutimer said the country is just weeks away from farmers having to shoot pigs when they run out of space.
Meanwhile the National Farmers’ Union warned 150,000 animals are under threat of being culled in the next ten days.
A shortage of butchers means farmers are having to ‘throw pigs in a skip’ because they can’t be slaughtered and carved.
The meat crisis is compounding woes caused by a lack of HGV drivers and fuel as well as labour shortages that will lead to a ‘distinct lack of choice’ this Christmas.
The latest developments in the ‘EFFing crisis’ came as:
- A farmer was forced to slaughter hundreds of piglets due to staff shortages at the local abattoir leaving too many stacked up on his farm.
- The National Pig Association warned the UK is heading into an ‘acute welfare disaster very quickly’ because of the backlog of animals, with warnings of a potential ‘mass cull’.
- Ocado customers have been left furious after Christmas delivery slots were all booked up just hours after they went up online.
- Experts warned that supply chain problems could see shortages of pigs in blankets, hams and party foods this Christmas.
- Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told Boris Johnson to deploy the military to get petrol to stations in areas most in need.
- Sir Keir also said Parliament should be recalled from its conference recess so MPs can discuss how to solve supply chain problems.
Mr Malthouse told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘We are still seeing strong demand in parts of the country around fuel. The distribution mechanism is trying to respond to this unprecedented demand.
‘My latest briefing is that the situation is stabilising, that we are seeing more forecourts with a greater supply of fuel and hopefully that, as demand and supply come better into balance over the next few days, week or so, that we will see a return to normality.
‘I think if things started to deteriorate further, obviously the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Energy, whose responsibility this is, will have to review the situation.’
Revelations over the regional variations came as the Government was yesterday accused of ‘gaslighting’ Britain over the fuel crisis, with ministers admitting more than a quarter of petrol stations still remain without supplies.
London and Bristol were among the worst hit areas yesterday as UK roads were gridlocked for the seventh day in a row while motorists hunt for stations with fuel, carrying petrol cans, plastic jugs and water bottles to stock up.
The Petrol Retailers Association said that while the situation at filling stations is improving it is happening ‘far too slowly’.
Chief executive Gordon Balmer said not enough fuel was getting through to independent stations.
‘In a PRA member survey today of 1,100 sites across the UK including motorway service areas, 47% of sites have reported having both petrol and diesel in stock, 27% have either one grade in stock and 26% are dry,’ he said.
‘Whilst the situation is similar to recent days, there are signs that it is improving, but far too slowly. Independents which total 65% of the entire network are not receiving enough deliveries of fuel compared with other sectors.
‘Until independents start getting frequent supplies, we will continue to see long queues at forecourts. It is vital now to ensure we get fuel to all parts of the country in order to reduce queues and reassure the public again.’
Sir Keir today demanded Mr Johnson take ’emergency action’ to remedy the fuel crisis as he called for the PM to deploy soldiers to get petrol to those areas most in need.
He called for Parliament to be recalled and for fuel stations with supplies to extend their opening hours to help NHS and other key workers fill up.
He said: ‘Every day wasted is prolonging this crisis. The Government has been talking about issuing visas but still hasn’t done anything. Meanwhile our essential workers are struggling to get to work and families face a cost of living crisis.
‘The Prime Minister should be taking emergency action today but yet again he’s failed to grasp the seriousness of the crisis. If it needs legislation, then let’s recall Parliament to get these emergency measures through urgently.
‘The Prime Minister promised to save Christmas last year and we all know that went disastrously wrong. Now he’s making the same empty promises again. Boris Johnson was warned about this crisis and he did nothing about it. He had the chance to make a plan but ignored it. The Prime Minister needs to get a grip.’
Reserve petrol tankers sit in storage in Fenstanton, Cambridgeshire on Friday, October 1 despite the ongoing fuel crisis
Hundreds of petrol stations across the country have been forced to put up signs warning of temporary shortages
BERMONDSEY, LONDON – A Shell petrol station with signage warning motorists they are experiencing fuel shortages
SOUTHFIELDS, LONDON – Desperate motorists continue to fill up their cars at a Shell petrol forecourt in the capital on Friday
Furious Ocado customers say deliveries for Christmas are ALREADY booked up just hours after slots went online
Ocado customers have been left furious after Christmas delivery slots were all booked up just hours after they went up online.
Angry shoppers have taken to social media to slam the grocery delivery firm, which normally gives priority to customers who pay a monthly fee for its festive delivery dates.
One person compared the ordeal ‘to trying to get tickets to Glastonbury’, as complaints flooded Twitter this morning.
The ‘Anytime Smart Pass’ customers told how they received an email advising them to re-book their Christmas slot from tomorrow.
However, no specific time was specified and when people woke up this morning to book their deliveries, most dates over the festive period were not available. Ocado blamed ‘high demand’ in a response to the complaints.
London, the South East, the North West, the West Midlands and East Midlands all have fuel levels of below 20 per cent and are labelled ‘red’ under a traffic light system that is reminiscent of the Government’s travel lists.
But fuel levels are improving in the North East, Yorkshire and Wales which have all moved from red to amber, while Scotland is moving from amber to green – and Northern Ireland is already green, reported The Times.
Mr Malthouse also insisted there was no ‘shortage of fuel in the UK’, rather ‘only so many tankers, only so many drivers’ to distribute supplies across the country.
His comments came just 24 hours after another minister – Treasury Chief Secretary Simon Clarke – claimed the situation was ‘absolutely back under control’.
Around 40 reserve petrol tankers, worth an estimated £4 million, are parked in the storage depot in Fenstanton, whilst forecourts across the UK remain closed due to a shortage of truck drivers.
Just a handful of the white tankers, which are stored at the depot in case of a national emergency, have been seen leaving so far.
Panic buying was sparked last week by concerns a lack of lorry drivers would prevent supplies reaching fuel pumps, and has brought long queues around the UK and pockets of aggression at petrol station forecourts.
Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association, yesterday explained: ‘There’s been no easing off of the pressure from drivers wanting to refuel whenever they can, wherever they can.
‘Trying to calm this down appears to be a monumental task at the moment.’
Government ministers began briefing on Monday that they believed the crisis would begin easing from Thursday as drivers who needed petrol or diesel would then have been able to fill up.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson then gave a statement insisting the crisis was ‘stabilising’ and told drivers to ‘go about their business in the normal way and fill up in the normal way, when you really need it’.
CLAPHAM, SOUTH LONDON – Vehicles queue for hours on Friday morning amid fears of a regional fuel shortage
BERMONDSEY, SOUTH EAST LONDON – An empty Shell petrol station can be seen as shortages continue
ASHFORD, KENT – Motorists continue to wait in huge queues amid fears of a nationwide fuelling crisis
RICHMOND, SOUTH WEST LONDON – Long queues were pictured at a Sainsbury’s fuel station on Friday
MANCHSETER – A sign jokingly offering customers free petrol with every purchase is seen at a bar
Earlier this week Mr Johnson ruled out granting priority access to fuel to healthcare staff on the grounds that it was unnecessary as the situation was ‘stabilising’.
However Mr Malthouse said there were ‘pockets’ of the country where there were still problems – with London and the South East reported to be among the hardest hit.
He said efforts were being made to balance out the situation with areas where supplies were strong, but he indicated they were being constrained by the numbers of tankers available.
‘What we need to see is a stabilisation and improvement over the next few days,’ he said.
‘Obviously there only so many tankers that can be used to get this fuel around. They are trying their best to get around as fast as possible.
‘There is co-ordination now across the country looking at where there are pockets of supply problems and demand strength and trying to bring the two into balance.’
New data from home insurer MORE THAN reveals that two in five (40%) drivers are storing fuel in or around the home, with one in six (16%) storing fuel inside the home, despite warnings that it puts homeowners and their families at serious risk.
It is illegal for homeowners to store more than 30litres of fuel.
On Wednesday, Business Secretary Kwasi announced the Government was sending out its reserve tanker fleet – driven by civilian drivers – to support the distribution efforts.
However it is yet to deploy the 150 military drivers who have been on standby since the start of the week to assist with the operation.
Figures from the Department for Transport have shown there is a backlog of more than 56,000 applications for vocational driving licences, including HGV and bus permits, waiting to be processed.
Ministers have blamed the pandemic, which led to the cancellation last year of tens of thousands of tests.
Mr Malthouse’s comments raise the prospect that Mr Johnson will go into the Conservatives’ annual party conference – which begins in Manchester at the weekend – with the issue still hanging over the Government.
The crisis began after reports that a shortage of tanker drivers had led a number of BP stations to close, which triggered a wave of panic buying which has yet to fully subside.