Labour MP Wes Streeting didn’t hold back during BBC Question Time when he pushed for environment secretary George Eustice to apologise to the public for not taking responsibility for the petrol crisis.
Speaking on Thursday night, Streeting took aim at Eustice over the government’s management of the fuel shortage at petrol pumps which has gripped the nation for the last week.
He said: “If a government can’t get things right as basic as keeping fuel in the pumps, no wonder people think they’re so incompetent.
“Just this week, George Eustice blamed the public, blamed the voters, for the petrol pump crisis saying it’s because people are going to the pumps to find the petrol.”
Eustice told broadcasters on Monday: “The only reason we don’t have petrol on the forecourts is that people are buying petrol they don’t need.”
Streeting, the shadow child poverty secretary, zeroed in on this allegation from Eustice during his Question Time appearance.
Justifying the public’s panic-buying, Streeting said: “Well of course they are – because the moment this government says nothing to be worried about there’s no crisis, everything is going to be OK – you know that that’s obviously not going to be true.
“It’s the worst of both worlds – they failed to take the pre-emptive action, and then they fuelled the panic instead of fuelling the motorists.
“It’s a total disgrace and George you really should apologise, not just to the audience, but to the public at large, for blaming them for your government’s incompetence.”
Eustice did not apologise, and said Streeting was being “opportunistic” by claiming he was blaming consumers.
He also claimed that the fuel crisis was already subsiding and blamed the issue with supply chains on the Covid pandemic, rather than Breit.
Eustice continued: “Rather than thinking immigration is the answer to everything, and it’s is only actually a small number of HGV drivers who are EU citizens, what we really need to be doing is trying to improve working conditions.”
But, Streeting traced the ongoing shortage HGV drivers across the UK – which has slowed down the distribution of petrol from the refineries to the petrol pumps – back to Brexit.
He said: “There are a whole range of challenges that arose out of the government’s botched Brexit deal.
“Problems that were not just foreseeable but foreseen.”
He noted that anti-Brexit campaigners warned there would be labour shortages once the UK left the EU, but the government has repeatedly denied that Brexit has caused any of the current shortages.
Yet, many have pointed to Downing Street’s temporary three-month visa scheme for overseas drivers as proof that the UK needs more workers from abroad following Brexit.