Finally the army goes in! Soldiers to start delivering petrol to UK forecourts from Monday – as Rishi Sunak exclusively reveals ‘very real’ food shortages will last until Christmas
- Soldiers will begin delivering petrol from Monday in a bid to end the fuel crisis
- 200 military drivers are being deployed to worst-hit areas, Downing Street said
- Rishi Sunak has warned that shortages of goods could continue until Christmas
- Chancellor said the supply problems are global and cannot be fixed by UK alone
Soldiers will start delivering petrol from Monday in a drastic bid to end the fuel crisis.
Nearly 200 military drivers are being deployed to the worst-hit areas, Downing Street confirmed.
The decision comes as Rishi Sunak warns shortages of goods could continue until Christmas.
In an exclusive interview with the Mail, the Chancellor says the supply problems are global and cannot be fixed by Britain alone.
‘These shortages are very real,’ he adds. ‘We’re seeing real disruptions in supply chains in different sectors, not just here but around the world. We are determined to do what we can to try to mitigate as much of this as we can.’
He also acknowledges that soaring inflation will leave millions of families facing a ‘challenging’ winter.
Nearly 200 military drivers are being deployed to the worst-hit areas, Downing Street confirmed. Pictured: Military personnel seen at the BP Oil plant in Hemel Hempstead Herts
But he defends his decision to remove the £20-a-week top-up to Universal Credit next week, saying he would rather ‘throw the kitchen sink’ at training and employment schemes.
He says he remains ‘full of confidence and optimism’ about the economic recovery, despite what some ministers are describing as an ‘EFFing crisis’, involving problems with supplies of energy, fuel and food.
With the £70billion furlough scheme finally ending this week, the Chancellor says he is optimistic there will be no need for further lockdowns this winter.
‘It feels to me like we’re stepping out of the coronavirus crisis, and can think about the future with a renewed sense of confidence and optimism,’ he says.
His comments come as:
- Industry sources said a quarter of independent forecourts had run dry yesterday;
- No 10 said ministers would fast track 300 temporary visas for foreign tanker drivers;
- A further 5,500 short-term visas will be issued to foreign poultry workers to help ensure turkey supplies at Christmas;
- Industry experts warned that supply chain problems could see shortages of pigs in blankets, hams and party foods at Christmas;
- Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng warned against further tax rises in this month’s budget;
- Mr Kwarteng ruled out a resumption of ‘fracking’ to ease the gas crisis, saying it was ‘not the way forward’.
The decision to deploy soldiers to start deliver petrol comes as Rishi Sunak warned shortages of goods could continue until Christmas. Pictured: Fuel tankers at Buncefield fuel storage
In an exclusive interview with the Mail, Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured) said the supply problems are global and cannot be fixed by Britain alone
In his wide-ranging interview, Mr Sunak says he ‘agonised’ over last month’s decision to break the Tory manifesto pledge on tax by raising national insurance to pay for health and social care reform.
And he reveals tensions with Boris Johnson over spending, saying he had joked about ‘taking away his credit card’ because he takes his ‘responsibility to looking after the public finances really seriously’.
The decision to send in the Army to tackle the petrol crisis comes after a week of U-turns in which ministers have flip-flopped repeatedly on the issue.
It came just 24 hours after Treasury minister Simon Clarke claimed the situation was ‘absolutely back under control’.
Downing Street yesterday insisted there was plenty of fuel in the UK, and that shortages had been caused solely by panic buying.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse said the situation would ease in ‘a week or so’, but acknowledged that further action might be needed if matters ‘deteriorate further’.
But with filling stations continuing to run dry across large parts of the country, the Prime Minister last night decided he could delay no longer.
In a further sign of Government alarm over the scenes at forecourts, No 10 last night said temporary visas for petrol tanker drivers would be fast-tracked.
Ministers had originally aimed to issue 5,000, three-month visas from the end of this month to help secure supplies over Christmas.
But Downing Street said that 300 of these would now be issued ‘immediately’ to firms who can find foreign drivers to operate their vehicles.
The decision to send in the Army (pictured: military at Buncefield fuel storage) to tackle the crisis comes after a week of U-turns in which ministers have flip-flopped on the issue
Downing Street yesterday insisted there was plenty of fuel in the UK, and that shortages had been caused solely by panic buying. Pictured: A soldier in an oil tanker in Purfleet
Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay said the ‘decisive action’ would ‘tackle the short-term disruption to our supply chains, and in particular the flow of fuel to forecourts’.
He added: ‘We are now seeing the impact of these interventions with more fuel being delivered to forecourts than sold and, if people continue to revert to their normal buying patterns, we will see smaller queues and prevent petrol stations closing.’
The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents independent filling stations, warned the queues were set to continue unless supplies increased.
Executive director Gordon Balmer said the independents had been particularly hard hit, with one in four reporting they had run dry.
Sir Keir Starmer called on the PM to take ’emergency’ action to address the shortage of lorry drivers which, he said, was threatening to ruin Christmas.
The Labour leader suggested parliament should be recalled to rush through legislation to keep Britain’s shelves from running empty.
In a sign of the seriousness of the issue, trade minister Penny Mordaunt took the unusual step of going public about the ‘awful and stressful’ situation in her Portsmouth constituency.
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