British military personnel are to be mobilized within days to drive truck drivers, in response to fuel shortage across the UK, according to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.
Kwarteng confirmed soldiers will be driving the tanker fleet within days – despite claims from his colleague George Eustice that the Army would not be deployed to help with the petrol crisis.
Panic-buying at petrol stations has triggered a shortage of fuel at the pumps over the last week.
This is because there are not enough HGV drivers to distribute the product around the country at the moment, leading to speculation that the government would call on the Army to assist.
When pressed about why the Army was only on standby and not currently mobilised by ITV News, the business secretary stated, “Anyone versed in military defence issues knows it takes a couple of days, sometimes a few days to get troops on the ground.”
Speaking on Wednesday, he noted, “We’ve decided to do that – and I think in the next couple of days, people will see some soldiers driving the tanker fleet.”
His comments are a direct contrast to remarks from environment secretary Eustice on Monday.
He told Sky News, “We have no plans at the moment to bring in the Army to actual do driving, but we always have a civil contingencies section within the Army which is always on standby if we need them, but we don’t judge that is necessary at the moment.”
Kwarteng also tried to reassure the public that, despite ongoing queues outside petrol stations and fights breaking out across the country, the fuel crisis is “clearly stabilising”.
He continued, “If we look at the inflows yesterday of petrol – they were matched yesterday by the sales, so that means the situation is stabilising.”
“I think people are behaving quite responsibly, actually,” he stated, adding, “Clearly we have the Army on standby, we’ve made preventative measures, we’ve tried to alleviate the HGV driver shortage by changing visa rules.”
Johnson echoed this message and noted the situation was “stabilising” on Tuesday, while transport secretary Grant Shapps stated things were “getting better on the forecourt”.
However, industry sources told The Times that the disruption could stretch over several weeks because the petrol stations will need time to restock.
BP is reportedly expected to experience issues throughout the next month.