28/03/2012 07:02 BST | Updated 28/03/2012 08:56 BST

Fuel Strike: Downing Street Denies Causing 'Panic'

Downing Street has denied fuelling panic at the prospect of petrol shortages, as David Cameron prepares to chair a meeting of the emergency Cobra committee.

Ministers will meet in Downing Street on Wednesday to discuss the prospect of strikes by fuel tanker drivers over Easter.

On Tuesday a spokesperson for No. 10 said people should "draw their own conclusions" when asked if motorists should rush to fill up their tanks.

The Labour Party has criticised the comments as it moves to distance itself from any industrial action by unions.

"It’s the height of irresponsibility for Downing Street to give the impression that people should be panic-buying. They should be using all their efforts to get a settlement," a party spokesperson said.

In the event of a strike soldiers are poised to take control at the pumps as part of contingency plans to alleviate some of its impact.

It comes after energy secretary Ed Davey wrote to Unite, the union planning to strike, overnight to suggest talks with haulage companies with conciliatory group Acas.

A spokesperson for Acas said they were establishing contact with "all the parties involved." It is believed any talks will not take place today.

On Monday tankers from Unite, which represents drivers who deliver fuel 90% of Britain's petrol courts, voted to strike after a dispute about pay and conditions. No dates have been called yet but the strike could take place over the Easter weekend on 8 April.

Number 10 earlier denied claims by the Labour party that they were fuelling panic over the strike, saying they were briefing the public in a "calm-headed" way.

Downing Street has encouraged drivers to develop "contingency plans" for any disruption.

AA president Edmund King warned against 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."

Esso joined with the call, with a spokesperson saying: "We would ask motorists to stick to their normal buying patterns."