Panic stations: Shapps blames 'irresponsible' haulage group for petrol shortage fears

26 September 2021, 15:04 | Updated: 26 September 2021, 15:28

By Sophie Barnett

A haulage group which was blamed by Grant Shapps for igniting panic buying chaos has "categorically denied" leaking the petrol shortage concerns as cars continue to pour out of forecourts.

Rod McKenzie, of the Road Haulage Association, has denied leaking details of a meeting between fuel industry executives and the Cabinet Office.

It comes after the Transport Secretary claimed the leak of industry chiefs' concerns that fuel stocks were only at two-thirds of normal forecourt levels triggered the scenes of panic buying across the country.

Some filling stations have been forced to close early in recent days after pumps ran dry as people scrambled to get their hands on fuel.

Meanwhile, emergency vehicles were involved in crashes at stations as they tried to reach blue-light patients amid the mayhem.

Queues of desperate drivers have snaked down the streets of London and other cities, with many people waiting for hours on end to fill up.

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Some people were even seen filling up jerry cans before many stations introduced a £30 limit.

Mr Shapps said the frenzied panic buying was the result of a haulage association leaking the details of a private meeting with the government.

Mr McKenzie, managing director of policy and public affairs at the RHA, said: "The allegation against me is nonsense.

"I was not in the meeting. I was not briefed about the meeting afterwards. I certainly didn't brief any journalists about the meeting about which I knew nothing.

"It is entirely without foundation."

Mr Shapps told Sky the haulage trade body helped "spark" the crisis through "irresponsible briefings".

Although the minister did not name the group, the Mail on Sunday reported a government source stating the Road Haulage Association was "entirely responsible for this panic and chaos".

Read more: Turkey supplier says Brexit '100%' to blame for Christmas shortage fears

Read more: Drivers pack cars with jerry cans and £30 cap introduced as panic-buyers scramble for fuel

The lack of HGV drivers has led to empty shelves in some supermarkets, as well as a lack of fuel at filling stations across the country, because petrol can't be transported as quickly.

The serious shortage of workers in key industries has led to fears of Christmas being affected by major supply disruption, with turkey supplies also set to be scarce.

But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has moved to allow thousands of overseas workers the chance to save Britain's festive season, granting them temporary visas, hoping they will keep shelves stocked with turkeys and toys and alleviate pressure on filling stations.

While some praised the move, others described it as throwing "a thimble of water on a bonfire".

Business groups say the government's plans to offer three-month visas to 5,000 foreign lorry drivers are "insufficient" to address supply issues.

No10 has continued to plead with people not to go out for fuel unless they need it, as they urged people not to panic buy.