Grant Shapps cancelled constituency event due to 'meeting commitment' and not fuel chaos
- Credit: Archant
Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps cancelled a planned constituency event at supermarket last week because of a ‘meeting commitment’ and not long fuel queues.
The event was cancelled less than an hour before it was set to take place, but a spokeswoman for Mr Shapps confirmed this was due to a ‘meeting commitment’ rather the long queues for fuel at the store.
“The Transport Secretary was unable to attend because of a meeting commitment,” read the short statement to the Welwyn Hatfield Times.
It’s been a busy week for Mr Shapps as he looks to deal with the UK’s ongoing fuel crisis, which has seen long queues form at forecourts across the country after a lack of HGV drivers started to affect supply chains.
This comes despite pleas from government – including from the transport secretary– to avoid panic buying.
The Department for Transport has now released measures to ease the fuel supply issues, including more support to help people to become HGV drivers, while the army has been put on standby to help with the immediate crisis.
“This package of measures builds on the important work we have already done to ease this global crisis in the UK, and this government continues to do everything we can to help the haulage and food industries contend with the HGV driver shortage.
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“We are acting now but the industries must also play their part with working conditions continuing to improve and the deserved salary increases continuing to be maintained in order for companies to retain new drivers.
“After a very difficult 18 months, I know how important this Christmas is for all of us and that’s why we’re taking these steps at the earliest opportunity to ensure preparations remain on track.”
Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Shapps blamed the fuel queues on an 'irresponsible briefing' from the Road Haulage Association, saying: "There isn’t a dramatic shortage in drivers, in fact it has been like this for a long time.
"It is only if you create a situation where people start to queue and other people see the queue and on and on it goes.
"I’m afraid that the thing which has sparked this particular rush on the petrol stations is a fairly irresponsible briefing from one of the road haulage associations which seems to have got this going.
"One of the features of the situation we’re in is there’s been a shortage for a very long time. So this is nothing new but as soon as you say to people there’s a shortage, people tend to react and it is not required. There is plenty of petrol in the country, as I say."
Rod McKenzie, the RHA’s policy and public affairs director, hit back at Mr Shapps in an interview with the Guardian.
"I said every time I was asked there is not a shortage of fuel," he said.
"It’s just ridiculous, accusing me of causing people to panic-buy. It’s not fair.
"The RHA has been a very strident campaigner on behalf of the haulage industry. Inevitably organisations become irritants. We’re determined to preserve our independence even if it makes us unpopular.”
Hertfordshire County Council confirmed to this newspaper that despite the fuel problems and staff facing disruptions to their journeys, all services are running as normal and a contingency plan is in place should this change.
"Currently all our services, including school transport and Fire and Rescue Service, are operating as normal," said a spokesman.
“There may be some minimal impact where a small number of staff have faced local and short-term disruption to their personal journeys.
“We have contingency plans to make sure all essential services will be able to continue to operate."
Welwyn Hatfield Times readers have been feeling the effects of the driver shortage, with one reader commenting on our Facebook page: “My husband is a bus driver so if he hasn't got any petrol to get to work then he won't be able to get the bus out to get passengers to their destination.”
Another wrote: “Can’t do any wildlife transportation at the moment. Can’t find diesel anywhere.”