Labour has called on the government to apologise for causing a "shambles on petrol", as ministers insisted their call for motorists to top up fuel tanks ahead of a possible tanker drivers' strike was just sensible planning. Sales of petrol and diesel have risen significantly after Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister advised drivers to consider filling up part-empty tanks and keeping a jerrycan of fuel in their garage following a vote organised by the Unite union for a possible strike by tanker drivers to try to improve health and safety standards in the industry.
The Retail Motor Industry Federation, which represents more than 5,500 petrol stations, said a survey of some members showed an 81% rise in petrol sales on Wednesday from the same day a week before, with an equivalent 43% increase in diesel sales. While ministers say they are primarily concerned with avoiding the sort of panic-buying and shortages that accompanied a blockade of petrol terminals in 2000 in protest at fuel duty levels, Labour says Maude's advice was over-hasty given that Unite would need to give seven days' notice before any stoppage. Fire officers warned that keeping a jerrycan of fuel in a garage posed a fire risk.
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