Grant Shapps suddenly cancels constituency event amid fuel chaos
Matthew Smith, Local democracy reporter
- Credit: Matthew Smith
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps ducked an event in his constituency today after huge fuel queues filled the car park of a supermarket he was due to speak at.
Mr Shapps, the Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield, had been due to talk to the press about work being done to install electric vehicle charging stations in Tesco supermarkets, as part of Great Big Green Week.
However, the LDRS was informed less than an hour before the event that Mr Shapps would no longer be visiting the Oldings Corner Tesco Extra store.
Forecourts across the county and the UK have seen long queues form after a lack of HGV drivers started to affect supply chains, although the government has insisted there is no fuel shortage.
Upon arrival at the Hatfield retail park one of the potential reasons for his abrupt cancellation became apparent.
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Despite pleas from government – including from Mr Shapps – to avoid panic buying, the car park had become full of cars queuing to get access to the supermarket’s petrol station, causing chaos for drivers and shoppers.
While we were at the retail park between 11.30am and 12.30pm, there were persistent queues into the station with staff having to marshall vehicles towards pumps and control the traffic.
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Queues extended onto the slip road in Comet Way, and into both entrances along Great North Road as drivers attempted to fill up their vehicles.
While some of the pumps had been closed, the station continued to operate and cars were slowly making their way onto the forecourt.
Mr Shapps and the Department for Transport did not explain why he was no longer taking part in the event, but said they would try to reschedule.
The Government said they are monitoring the stock levels of fuel to avoid shortages, and steps are being taken to try to fill HGV vacancies.
A Government spokesperson said: “There is no shortage of fuel in the UK, and people should continue to buy fuel as normal.
“We recognise the challenges facing industry and have already taken action to increase the supply of HGV drivers, including streamlining the process for new drivers and increasing the number of driving tests.
“We continue to closely monitor labour supply and work with sector leaders to understand how we can best ease particular pinch points.”
Despite queues from the three entrances into the car park, there was one quieter spot – as the electric charging stations we had come to see stood almost entirely empty.