6:22am Sunday 1st April 2012
© Press Association 2013
The union representing fuel tanker drivers is preparing to enter peace talks amid a plea to the Government not to scupper the prospect of a deal to avert strikes.
With talks set to begin at the conciliation service Acas this week, Unite urged the Government to distance itself from speculation that the message to stockpile fuel was part of a deliberate strategy to give the coalition its "miners moment".
And senior Tory backbencher David Davis said the Government only had itself to blame for some of its difficulties. "Some of it has been carelessness, the issues over the fuel strike, they haven't thought things through properly," he told BBC News.
Queues have now shortened on petrol forecourts after drivers were urged not to panic-buy fuel. The Government issued new advice, telling motorists there was "no urgency" to top up tanks, after Unite ruled out the threat of strikes over Easter.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, said: "We call on the Government to come clean on its whole approach to this dispute. Is it acting as an honest broker, or is it spoiling for a fight in order to get itself out of the political hole its class-focused economic mismanagement has put it in?
"Over the last few days its every move has been designed to whip up unnecessary tension at the expense of the public.
"Ministers knew all along that a strike could not possibly be less than seven days away even were it to be called - that is the law. Yet they panicked the nation all the way to the petrol pumps because they imagined it would boost them in the polls."
Labour MPs have called for the resignation of Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, who has faced a barrage or criticism from fire experts since advising motorists earlier this week to store jerry cans of fuel in their garages.
Diane Hill, 46, from York, is in hospital with 40% burns after vapours ignited as she decanted petrol from one container to another, setting fire to her clothing.
A spokeswoman for BP said demand had eased following the new Government advice. An AA spokesman said panic buying had "dramatically dropped".
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