Fuel Strike Talks Due On Wednesday

(c) Sky News 2012

Talks aimed at resolving the fuel tak drivers' dispute will be held on Wednesday, the mediation service Acas has said.

Acas met the employers of the 2,000 workers who plan to strike over working conditions on Monday but further talks, later in the week, will include the Unite union and fuel distributors.

As the union has to give seven days' notice of a strike, there will be no walkout over Easter and the Government has emphasised there is "no urgency" for motorists to buy petrol.

After urging motorists to fill up if their tanks dropped below two-thirds full, the Department for Energy (NYSEArca: JJE - news) and Climate Change has now said there is no need to queue at the pumps.

"There is no need to queue at petrol forecourts," the department said.

"There is no urgency to top up your tank, a strike will not happen over Easter.

"Check travel sites and latest news before travelling. Stick to speed limits as this helps conserve fuel," it added.

The Government has faced a barrage of criticism over its handling of the situation, which saw petrol shortages and long queues at some stations as ministers indicated there could be a threat to fuel supplies.

Ministers were condemned for urging motorists to keep their petrol tanks topped up, prompting a wave of panic-buying at filling stations.

However the AA motoring organisation told Sky News fuel prices at the pump has risen by less than feared over the weekend.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused the Government of deliberately provoking a confrontation with the unions because they wanted to recreate Margaret Thatcher's clash with the miners in the 1980s.

"They created this petrol crisis," she told the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show.

"What they did was they caused a run on the pumps for political reasons because they wanted a 'Thatcher moment'."

Unite has urged the Government to distance itself from speculation that the message to stockpile fuel was part of a deliberate strategy.

Labour MPs have called for the resignation of Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, who was urged by fire experts to withdraw his advice to motorists to store jerry cans of fuel in garages.

Diane Hill, 46, from York, remains in a critical condition in hospital with 40% burns after vapours ignited as she decanted petrol from one container to another.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley dismissed reports that Mr Maude had been urged to resign by two Conservative Cabinet ministers after breaking from the agreed Government line and calling on people to stock up on petrol.

"I have been on the receiving end of this kind of reporting and I think it's all nonsense frankly," he told Sky News' Murnaghan programme.

On Monday, the Prime Minister's official spokesman was asked if David Cameron had full confidence in Mr Maude and replied: "Yes."

Figures from industry body RMI Petrol showed the volume of petrol sold fell over Friday and Saturday after a high on Thursday.

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