It’s the news anybody who was planning on doing anything in a car, van or bike over the forthcoming Easter holiday weekend wanted to hear – there’ll be no strike action from Britain’s 2,000 fuel tanker drivers.
This means that there’ll be no repeat – well, not for the immediate future at any rate – of the ‘run’ on petrol stations caused by transport secretary Francis Maude’s ill-conceived advice for motorists to fill jerry cans up and top their car up if it dropped below two-thirds full, which he later backtracked on. (Sadly not before Diane Hill of York suffered 40 per cent burns to her body after attempting to decant petrol from one container to another on Friday – she remains in hospital, in a critical condition.)
Talks are now well underway between mediation service Acas and employers of the fuel tanker drivers to attempt to avert any strike action. Meanwhile, petrol stations across the country are struggling to re-stock after last week's wave of panic buying.
The government has been heavily criticised for its handling of the petrol shortage, with Yvette Cooper, the shadow energy secretary, claiming that the Conservatives deliberately set out to create a run on petrol to stoke up antipathy towards the unions. "What they did was they caused a run on the pumps for political reasons because they wanted a 'Thatcher moment'," she said, making reference to the former Prime Minister’s confrontations with striking miners in the 1980s. The government’s advice was also branded “self-inflicted insanity” by the UK Petroleum Industry Association in a leaked email.
But William Hague, the foreign secretary, said that the government had done the right thing in warning motorists to the threat to fuel supplies. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s The Andrew Marr show, he said: “Had they not set out the precautions that people should take and alerted people to the situation, then, if the strike took place in the coming weeks, it would be said that they were complacent and hadn't prepared the country. The country is in a better state of preparedness now than it was a week ago "