Tory MP admits UK could be heading to winter of discontent: 'This feels very reminiscent'

·Political Correspondent - Yahoo News UK
·3 min read
Tory MP David Morris fears 'winter of discontent' amid fuel shortages. (BBC)
Tory MP David Morris fears a 'winter of discontent' amid fuel shortages. (BBC)

A Conservative MP has said he fears the UK is building towards a "winter of discontent" amid soaring energy bills and fuel shortages. 

There were long queues for pumps across mainland Britain at the weekend as panic buying took hold amid an HGV delivery driver shortage that has adversely impacted supply at petrol stations.

David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, said the situation feels reminiscent to that of the 1970s, when a series of economic crises culminated in major disruption in 1978.

"Well, I've got to say to you, I can remember the winter of discontent and I remember what was building up to it and this to me feels very reminiscent," he told the BBC. 

"I'm hoping that doesn't happen." 

Long queues form at a Shell petrol station in Islington. Many UK stations have run out of petrol due to a shortage of HGV (heavy goods vehicle) drivers linked to Brexit, as the government warns against panic buying. (Photo by Vuk Valcic / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
There were long queues for pumps across mainland Britain at the weekend. (PA Images)

The government announced on Sunday it was temporarily suspending competition laws to allow the industry to share information so it can target areas where fuel supply is low. 

Some independent petrol brands have reported that 90% of their sites are dry, with queues trailing down busy roads and even fights breaking out in forecourts.

Emergency services workers and carers have reported struggling to refuel vehicles to provide vital life-saving care.

The UK is also facing wider supply-chain issues around food and drink availability, leaving some supermarket shelves empty.

According to the Road Haulage Association, the UK is short of approximately 100,000 drivers – a situation that has been made worse by both the pandemic and Brexit. 

It was widely reported on Monday that Boris Johnson was considering bringing in army personnel to drive oil tankers.

However, the government said there were “no plans at the moment” to use the army to drive petrol tankers.

Environment secretary George Eustice said there was not a shortage of fuel and called on motorists to stop “panic-buying” petrol and return to their normal pattern of purchasing.

Watch: Drivers queue at petrol stations amid fuel panic

Even if the army were deployed, there are concerns whether soldiers would have the skills to drive HGV vehicles and deliver the fuel at stations.

“The government is stepping up to try and get people trained quicker but the big problem is, it’s OK training a driver, the experience factor is what actually makes the driver," Morris said. 

Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced last week that there will be a push to recruit more road haulage drivers, with measures including making HGV driving tests more speedy. 

European lorries parked in Dover, Kent, as the Government is considering temporary measures to tackle the shortage of HGV drivers which is wreaking havoc on a number of UK industries. Picture date: Sunday September 26, 2021.
European lorries parked in Dover, Kent, as the government considers temporary measures to tackle a shortage of HGV drivers.

"Another 4k to be trained as HGV drivers, army to increase testing capacity by thousands & temp visa scheme until Christmas - all part of a further package of measures we're announcing to support the haulage & food sectors deal with driver shortage," Shapps wrote on Twitter

Various Tory MPs also took to Twitter to try to calm the public's nerves and shut down claims of a petrol shortage, with foreign minister James Cleverly writing: "There is no fuel shortage!!!" and culture secretary Nadine Dorries also chiming in.

DCMS secretary tweets about fuel shortages
DCMS secretary tweets about fuel shortages

However, Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association, has warned that the situation is likely to get worse. 

"It is a crisis situation that has developed very quickly," he told Sky News. 

"I think this situation is going to get worse before it gets better." 

Read more:

UK fuel crisis: Independent brands say 90% of petrol station sites are dry

Schools 'consider switch to online learning' as petrol crisis leaves teachers stranded

Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband has criticised the government's management of the situation as accused them of contributing to the problem. 

"Ministers must urgently address the 100,000 HGV driver shortfall, which is at the root of this chaos," he said. 

"With every hour and day that goes by the public will feel increasingly outraged by the incompetent and shambolic government that has brought us to this point."

Watch: Who are Insulate Britain?

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