According to officials, ministers ignored warnings about serious flaws in the UK’s fuel supply chains for years, Granthshala has learned.
It has emerged that the government’s own documents and statements, which are years old, raise a slew of concerns about the vulnerability of the petrol and diesel supply chain.
Labor’s shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said in response: “It is the horrific and willful inaction and complacency of ministers that has brought us to this point.
Officials now warn of more supply issues, as the government was accused of dragging its feet for at least four years over creating legal powers to avoid fuel disruptions.
This comes as the fuel panic entered its fifth day as some petrol stations closed due to driver shortage, raising fears over a widespread outage.
“Ministers must urgently address the 100,000 HGV driver shortage, which is at the root of this chaos,” Mr Miliband said. “We have been brought to this point by an incompetent and shameful government with every hour and day being run by the masses.”
Sales of Jerry Cans for fuel storage rose sharply over the weekend, with retailer Halford reporting a seventeen-fold increase in the number sold compared to the same period a week earlier. The Transportation Secretary, Grant Shapps, on Tuesday advised the public to refill empty drinking bottles with fuel.
The then trade minister and now trade secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, told parliament in a written ministerial statement in June that the government was bringing in a new law to allow it to oversee the country’s fuel supply.
This was necessary because of the “increased risk of market disruption” and the sector’s lack of “ability to respond to sudden supply and demand shocks”.
The UK has been a net importer of petroleum products since 2006, and British refineries further reduced their capacity in response to falling demand during the pandemic. The UK’s largest refineries have also increased their reliance on third parties to cut costs, contracting out parts of their supply chains in recent years. These factors have added to concerns about tracking UK fuel stocks.
Ms Trevelyan said in June that the government did not have the necessary tools to monitor fuel stocks and that companies were lacking in managing “high impact risks”, leaving the fuel supply chain vulnerable to “accidents, severe weather, malicious threats”. exposed to pressure. industrial action, and financial failure”.
The government first mooted these new powers in a draft of the Downstream Oil Resilience Bill in 2017, but failed to bring forward legislation to monitor fuel supply chains until June this year.
Officials familiar with fuel safety told Granthshala The latest legislation had slipped down the government’s list of priorities, despite a sharp decline in fuel sector resilience in the light of the pandemic and a study of the sectors’ financial vulnerabilities to Brexit.
“Over the past year, Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the sector, and the industry is now looking at how they can recover permanently. Ensuring a reliable and safe fuel supply for essential services will be critical in the years to come,” Ms Trevelyan said in a separate statement to Parliament on June 7 this year.
“Government can take emergency powers during a crisis – primarily through the Energy Act 1976 and the Civil Contingency Act 2004. However, our ability to actively protect fuel supplies is limited. The Bill seeks to address this shortcoming. takes effort, believing that it is better to prevent than to react,” she said.
A spokesman for the trade department said it already had several powers to help ensure the continuity of fuel supplies, but recognized the need to “modify them”.
“That’s why our new Downstream Oil Resilience Bill will both complement existing strengths, and further strengthen them to ensure that we are fully prepared and resilient to any future disruptions,” the spokesperson said.
The fracture in UK fuel security was flagged to the government in 2012 when a major refinery, Coryton, collapsed due to financial pressures. Concerns were also raised about the disruption in petrol distribution and the finances of refineries in the lead-up to Brexit, one of the top priorities of the emergency planning effort called Operation Yellow Hammer.
A sudden drop in fuel demand amid the COVID-19 lockdown has made the sector more vulnerable. This low call for fuel eroded the balance sheets of some petrol makers, leaving them vulnerable to disruptions even without the current crisis in specialist lorry driver capacity.
Essa Oil, owner of the Stanlow Refinery in Ellesmere Port, which produces about one-sixth of the fuel used in British lorries and cars, was Forced to protect their financial position It was close to collapsing amid reports over the weekend. It said it was “in discussion” about a “short detail” with HMRC on a £223m payment for the VAT bill.
A spokesperson for the UK Petroleum Industry Association, (UKPIA), which represents refineries in the UK, said it had “shared initial feedback on the Downstream Oil Resilience Bill with BEIS, and as more details emerge we will make our own version of the bill.” Will further develop understanding.
He added that UKPIA “will continue to work with BEIS to consider both the effectiveness of potential new measures and if they will make a meaningful contribution to the already existing robust market mechanism and legislation.”
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /