Fuel 'to rise by 10p' this week after panic buying spree as families cancel Easter getaways
- Unleaded costs up to 149p a litre - and could go up another 10p this week
- Pumps could remain empty until Friday, with forecourts drying up after demand quadruples
- Thousands of holidaymakers cancel plans, says RAC, meaning trouble for the UK tourist industry
- But William Hague insists Government WAS right with 'jerry can' advice which led to panic
- Talks between Unite union and ACAS to resume on Wednesday
By EDDIE WRENN
The price of fuel could rise by as much as 10p this week as forecourts continue to dry up following a week of panic-buying.
Some garages are expected to try to profiteer off the back of the crisis, and hike prices to take advantage of the high demand and low supplies - with some garages not expecting any more top-ups until Friday.
Brian Madderson, chairman of Retail Motor Industry Petrol, said he believes garages could add up to 10p a litre in some areas, with rises of four to six pence happening around the country.
Panic at the pumps: Cars pile into a Morrisons filling station in Northampton yesterday as the RAC warned drivers again not to panic buy fuel
Rush on: Tesco filling station in Seacroft, Leeds, which has been struggling with surging demand for fuel
He said: 'Motorists are paying a significant premium because the wholesalers know they are on to a good thing. It’s the law of supply and demand.'
The panic-buying and hiked prices has scuppered the plans of thousands of Easter holidaymakers and the RAC has warned that many are changing their plans.
There are now fears that the livelihoods of those in the tourist industry, such as B&B owners, throwing them into disarray.
RAC spokesman John Franklin said: 'There is no doubt thousands of people who might normally go away will reconsider and change their plans.'
The AA said around 54 per cent expected to take a road trip over the Easter weekend, but that three-quarters of motorists were less likely to make a long distance journey due to concerns about fuel costs.
Some people may choose to take a last-minute short foreign break than pay to travel within the UK, which could cause trouble for the home-grown tourist industry.
Seriously injured: Diane Hill is in hospital after suffering 40% burns
However despite the panic, caused by a week of bumbling messages from ministers, William Hague said ministers such as Francis Maude, who told people to fill their cars and keep jerry cans of fuel at home, had done ‘absolutely the right thing’.
He said: 'My colleagues have done absolutely the right thing to urge people to take sensible precautions and they will be vindicated over the coming days.’
A ComRes poll yesterday found that 81 per cent of voters believe the Government has created unnecessary panic over fuel strikes and 72 per cent think it is out of touch with ordinary people.
The panic led to motorists reportedly filling up everything from lawnmowers to jam-jars with fuel, and led to serious injuries for one woman.
Diane Hill, 46, from York, is still in hospital with 40 per cent burns after vapours ignited as she decanted petrol from one container to another, setting fire to her clothing.
The mother-of-two remains in a critical condition in the specialist burns unit at Pinderfields hospital in Wakefield.
Leader of the City of York Council councillor James Alexander has promised social workers will be sent to counsel those neighbours who witnessed Ms Hill trying desperately to free herself of her burning clothes.
Ms Hill's daughters returned to the family home briefly yesterday but were too upset to comment.
They have been staying by their mother's hospital bedside.
Panic-buying, with demand up to four times the usual amount, is cuasing stations to close, such as this garage in North Shields
Tankers sat at the Shell petrol tanker depot at the Coryton West Site: Reconciliation talks should happen later this week
The Tories were accused of trying to spin the crisis, with No 10 forced to deny reports that the PM told the Cabinet last week that ‘a bit of petrol panic may be no bad thing’ as it would turn people against Unite.
Journalist Charles Moore, a friend of the PM, revealed MPs were told to persuade party members the Coalition was trying to ape Mrs Thatcher’s decision to stockpile coal before the 1984 miners’ strike. ‘This is our Thatcher moment,’ MPs were told.
Prices continue to soar across the country, with one forecourt on the M2 in Kent levied a price of 148.9p a litre for unleaded fuel yesterday, with diesel costing 155.9p a litre.
Other garages have begun rationing their available fuel, with one BP garage in Cambridge limiting customers to top-ups of just £25 a time.
Talks on the dispute are not expected to start again until Wednesday, with the Unite union stressing their need to improve working and safety conditions for hauliers.
The crisis seemed far from over last night as thousands of truckers said they would blockade refineries and gridlock motorways if the Unite union called a walkout of tanker drivers, torpedoing Government plans to use Army drivers in tankers.
Haulier Andrew Spence, who played a key role in the blockades in 2000 that led to 3,000 petrol stations running out of fuel, threatened to bring down the Coalition unless fuel prices were cut.
Mr Spence, from County Durham, said: ‘We have been in negotiations with the tanker drivers since 2000. We have said to them we may have to stand beside them in any protest.
We are better organised than in 2000. This time we will bring the Government down.’
Flashback: Hauliers helped bring the country to a standstill in 2000, blocking fuel tankers arriving at Avonmouth docks
Mr Spence said the action was a ‘last resort’ because hauliers and farmers were going bust.
He added: 'People are going to the wall. The pressure we are under is ridiculous.
'The price of fuel is rising by the day and 63 per cent of the price is tax. It is costing me £200 a day just to run an average sized tractor.
'I filled up the five wagons I run yesterday and it cost me £7,500. That fuel will last till Tuesday and then I'll have to fill them up all over again.
'There is no way you can make a living. We are supposed to be coming out of a recession but it feels like we are getting deeper into it.'
However Unite is believed to be unhappy with their involvement, with a source telling the Telegraph: 'That agenda is nothing to do with our campaign.'
William Hague (left) defended the comments of Francis Maude, who suggested motorists filled up jerry cans, sparking the petrol panic
One Tory minister said: ‘All the attention has been on the pasties and the pensioners but the failure to cut fuel duty is starting to look like the most grievous mistake of the lot. The myth of George Osborne’s infallibility has been destroyed.’
No 10 denied reports that the PM told the Cabinet last week that ‘a bit of petrol panic may be no bad thing’ as it would turn people against Unite.
But journalist Charles Moore, a friend of Mr Cameron, revealed that MPs were told to persuade party members the Government was trying to copy Mrs Thatcher’s decision to stockpile coal before the miners’ strike in 1984. ‘This is our Thatcher moment,’ MPs were told.
Unite, which represents 2,062 tanker drivers, is to hold talks with seven fuel firms at the conciliation service Acas today.
The PM starts a nationwide tour this week to convince voters he understands their needs.
He is due to announce plans to boost the right to buy council houses tomorrow to show the Coalition is acting in the interests of ‘ordinary working people’.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will today launch his Youth Contract to pay firms that give jobs to under-24s who have been jobless for nine months. There will be 250,000 extra work experience placements and incentives to hire apprentices.
But in a speech today Labour leader Ed Miliband will say: ‘The last two weeks have exposed the true face of David Cameron’s Tory-led government.
‘We end up with a government that decides to play politics with petrol supplies. A government that said it would change things for the better but is only making life worse. A government that is out of touch.’