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Petrol Strike Threat: Francis Maude's Jerry Can And Five Reasons Not To Panic

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The government has come under fire for 'panicking' car owners over a possible strike by tanker drivers, prompting industry leaders to urge calm among car owners across the country.

On Wednesday a senior Tory minister suggested lives could be at risk if the proposed strike goes ahead, as Downing St denied it was fuelling panic over the issue.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said: "A bit of extra fuel in a jerry can is a sensible precaution to take," as he explained that the army would replace striking fuel tanker drivers.

Mr Maude said a "couple of hundred" military tanker crews would be trained to cover for striking drivers in a bid to maintain supplies to garages as well as hospitals and schools.

He also attacked the Unite union and its leader Len McCluskey for threatening industrial action, accusing the union of being "irresponsible".

Earlier prime minister David Cameron recommended people should stock up on petrol "if they can" over the coming days as he prepared to chair a meeting of the cross-government meeting on the threat in the room normally held for emergency committee Cobra.

But motorists are being told not to turn a "rumour into a crisis" and avoid panic-buying at the petrol pump.

"There is plenty of fuel to go round and the situation will only deteriorate if motorists rush unnecessarily to filling stations," AA president Edmund King said.

Here are five other reasons why you shouldn't panic.

ONE: THE PETROL STRIKE MAY NOT GO AHEAD

Conciliatory service Acas is involved to get unions and employers around the table. Ed Davey wrote to Unite, the union planning to strike, overnight to suggest talks with haulage companies with Acas. A Unite spokesperson said on Wednesday: "Our union representatives are meeting today to consider next steps, including meeting with Acas and will be reporting back later today. We want to sit down with the employers and resolve the dispute."

Unite's Diana Holland has said the government can still help "avoid confrontation."

"The government can help avoid confrontation by bringing to the table all the stakeholders in the downstream oil distribution sector – employers, oil companies, retailers and the trade union – with an agreement to establish minimum standards in a timely fashion."

TWO: PANIC BUYING PETROL COULD MAKE THINGS WORSE

AA president Edmund King said panic-buying could lead to a "shortage", warning against "inappropriate" panic-buying.

"If 30 million people suddenly want to fill up 50-litre fuel tanks then you could have a shortage.

"It's totally inappropriate for people to panic-buy. No strikes have yet been announced and there is enough fuel out there as long as people do not fill up unnecessarily," he said.

THREE: EVEN ESSO AREN'T WORRIED (AND NOR ARE THE DFT)

An Esso spokesperson said on Wednesday they will do all they could to "maximise fuel supplies" in the event of a strike.

"At this stage no strike dates have been called and the potential remains for a resolution to the matter," they said.

"In the event of a strike, Esso will do all it can to maximise fuel supplies to its service stations and other customers, working with the Government and Hoyer, our fuel distributors.

"We would ask motorists to stick to their normal buying patterns."

The Department for Transport said on its website: "There is currently no problem with fuel supplies. But if a strike were to go ahead, supplies of fuel to some, but not all, forecourts across the UK could be affected."

FOUR: PETROL'S TOO EXPENSIVE ANYWAY

Last week petrol prices reached their highest ever levels, breaking through the 140p per litre barrier.

RAC technical director David Bizley said: "A figure of £1.40 a litre is a massive price for people to have to pay and there is no end in sight to rising prices. The way things are going the planned duty rise will see average petrol prices hit the £1.50 a litre mark – forcing more and more people who need their cars off the road."

FIVE: LIVES PROBABLY AREN'T AT RISK

During the petrol strikes in 2000 fuel was delivered to emergency services and hospitals.

Are you affected by panic-buying? Tell us your stories in the comments

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