Fuel strike: petrol prices to reach record high

We have had substantial rises this week and there is another penny in the pipeline to work its way through.
The price rise means the cost of filling up a large family car with a 70-litre tank such as a Ford Mondeo will be almost exactly £100.
The Government has been widely blamed for sparking last weeks panic buying, ahead of a possible strike by fuel tanker drivers, after urging motorists to fill up and even hoard petrol in jerrycans.
The Government changed its advice to motorists on Saturday in an attempt to quell a third day of panic buying. It said it was no longer urgent to fill up because Unite had ruled out any strike action before Easter, and warned against queuing for fuel.
Nevertheless, there remained reports of drivers yesterday using desperate and dangerous attempts to store petrol while long queues were reported in Coventry, Leeds, parts of the home counties and Liverpool, where motorists waited for up to an hour.
Some forecourts rationed drivers to as little as £10 each while others imposed a minimum £25 spend to deter those who already had plenty of petrol.
In South Wales, one woman tried to fill two, one-gallon glass bottles with petrol but the pump nozzle was bigger than the neck causing petrol to be spilt on the ground. At a BP service station in Portsmouth, a driver was ordered to stop trying to fill up two-litre, plastic milk containers.
In an attempt to end the chaos, David Cameron has now seized personal control of the governments handling of the fuel crisis after civil war in Whitehall served to increase the panic.
Coalition sources said 10 Downing Street moved to lock down the official response to the crisis after Government agencies put out wildly differing advice to the public.
Whitehall knives were out for Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, who initially sparked panic buying last week by advising households to hoard petrol maybe a little bit in the garage as well in a jerrycan.
Mr Maudes comments were branded potentially dangerous by the AA and the Fire Brigades Union.
A senior coalition source said on Saturday night there had been open disagreement between Whitehall departments over what to tell motorists.
Francis made the decision to say what he said that was not something that others agreed with, the source added.
There was simple disagreement between various parts of the government about what should be proposed.
Insiders said the situation was not helped by having three Whitehall departments the Cabinet Office, under Mr Maude, the Department for Transport, under Justine Greening, and the Department for Energy, under Ed Davey all involved in handling the governments response.
There was no clear chain of command until the Prime Minister effectively took charge on Friday, the source said. Number 10 have now locked it all down.
Tensions between departments were visible last week when Mike Penning, the junior transport minister, said Mr Maude had made a mistake in his advice and had misunderstood the size of a jerrycan, which is 20 litres.
A Department for Energy spokeswoman admitted his comments had had an `unfortunate effect.
At one point, with drivers queuing up for petrol ahead of a strike which still has yet to be called, the Cabinet Office was citing Mr Maudes advice while the Department for Transport website was advising drivers to carry on as normal.
Mr Davey then added to confusion by telling motorists to get a full tank and dont let it go down too far.
The source said: It was total chaos as bad in terms of disagreements between departments as it has been under the coalition. Francis seemed determined to go his own way.
The confusion in government has surprised both the fuel delivery firms and Unite, who go into conciliation talks at ACAS on Monday.
Both pointed out that the dispute has been rumbling for more than a year with ministers well briefed on the subject for some time.
Ministers should have known and should have been prepared. That would be a good conclusion to draw, said an industry source, astonished by the mixed messages sent out by government prompting last weeks panic.
Len McCluskey, Unites general secretary, said: The government cannot plead ignorance, they could have helped solve this a long time ago.

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