Moves to start peace talks aimed at averting a strike by fuel tanker drivers will be stepped up today amid fears that panic buying of petrol will escalate.
Many Fleet and HGV companies are waiting for the decision to be announced tomorrow.
Garages have reported long queues after Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude suggested drivers should fill up any spare jerry cans with petrol and keep them in garages.
But another Government minister admitted Mr Maude had made a “mistake” after fire safety experts warned of the dangers of storing petrol.
“You can’t store that amount of petrol. It was a mistake by the Cabinet minister. He didn’t understand the size of a jerry can. He has apologised since,” transport minister Mike Penning said.
However he insisted that Mr Maude was right to advise drivers to keep their petrol tanks full as the seven days notice the union is required to give before going on strike would leave little time to prepare.
“Seven days isn’t enough to actually make sure we have the facilities and the amount of fuel we need to go forward,” Mr Penning said.
“If they go on strike the country will have a problem. Let’s be prepared for that in case it happens.”
Conciliation service Acas is trying to convene talks between the Unite union and seven companies involved in the dispute over terms and conditions and safety.
Sales of petrol were up 45% on Tuesday and diesel was up 20%, in what appeared to be a sign of panic-buying by motorists, with the trend seeming to continue last night.
Unite has not set any strike dates and has been stressing its willingness to negotiate.
The union will have to make an announcement by tomorrow if it wants to hit the start of the Easter holidays.
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