Ministers have triggered Operation Escalin, with 200 military personnel to fill “critical vacancies” and get petrol to the pumps
Soldiers will start delivering petrol to forecourts from Monday as ministers scramble to end the fuel crisis gripping Britain.
Around 200 military personnel – including 100 HGV drivers – will be trained at haulier sites to get more petrol to the pumps as part of the Ministry of Defence’s Operation Escalin.
Troops have been called on despite Boris Johnson announcing a three-month visa scheme that lets foreign lorry drivers work in the UK in the three months up to Christmas.
It comes amid the spectre of empty supermarket shelves, closed garages and fears Christmas will be ruined due to the supply chain emergency.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, said: “Across the weekend over 200 military personnel will have been mobilised as part of Operation Escalin.
“While the situation is stabilising, our Armed Forces are there to fill in any critical vacancies and help keep the country on the move by supporting the industry to deliver fuel to forecourts.”
Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey, said Labour would backed calling in the military as he blamed the Government for the crisis.
“We know the Army will step up and deliver when asked, but this is a sticking plaster,” he said. “We need a proper plan to recruit and train more drivers, including improvements to terms and conditions for those working in the sector.”
The Mirror also revealed earlier today that thousands of firefighters have been sent letters from the Government urging them to take up HGV driving.
The Government already faced fury for sending letters to ambulance paramedics, offering “fantastic opportunities”, “attractive pay rates” and “flexible hours” to help solve the shortages.
The visa scheme announced last week by Government allows for 5,000 drivers and bends immigration rules “in recognition of the extraordinary set of circumstances affecting the stability of the UK supply chain”.
But ministers have admitted just 300 HGV drivers will be available immediately, with the following 4,700 not backfilling roles until late October – meaning disruption will rumble on for months.
Ian Vogler / Daily Mirror)
He said: “The Prime Minister should be taking emergency action today but yet again he’s failed to grasp the seriousness of the crisis. If it needs legislation, then let’s recall Parliament to get these emergency measures through urgently.
“The Prime Minister promised to save Christmas last year and we all know that went disastrously wrong. Now he’s making the same empty promises again. Boris Johnson was warned about this crisis and he did nothing about it. He had the chance to make a plan but ignored it. The Prime Minister needs to get a grip.”
The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) said that independent stations, which total 65% of the network were “not receiving enough deliveries of fuel”.
More than a quarter of the PRA’s members’ filling stations were still empty on Friday and less than half had both petrol and diesel in stock, said Executive Director Gordon Balmer.
AFP via Getty Images)
“Whilst the situation is similar to recent days, there are signs that it is improving, but far too slowly,” he said. “Until independents start getting frequent supplies, we will continue to see long queues at forecourts.”
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng insisted that the fuel crisis was subsiding, however.
He said: “Thanks to the immense efforts of industry over the past week, we are seeing continued signs that the situation at the pumps is slowly improving. UK forecourt stock levels are trending up, deliveries of fuel to forecourts are above normal levels, and fuel demand is stabilising.
“It’s important to stress there is no national shortage of fuel in the UK, and people should continue to buy fuel as normal. The sooner we return to our normal buying habits, the sooner we can return to normal.”