The army will not be called in to ease the petrol crisis, the government says, as Boris Johnson staged an emergency meeting to discuss the option.
Ministers were considering triggering ‘Operation Escalin’, which could have seen hundreds of soldiers ordered to take over tankers, because of the shortage of drivers.
But George Eustice, the environment secretary, said: “We don’t judge that is necessary at the moment.”
The government had stoked expectations that the move was imminent, with the prime minister thought to be “preparing” to deploy troops, after at least half of local filling stations ran dry.
The Petrol Retailers Association reported the alarming survey of its independent members – with up to 90 per cent out of fuel, in some areas – as oil giant BP said one third of its sites had no supplies.
Government pleas for drivers to stop filling their cars “when they don’t need it” have fallen on deaf ears so far, as long queues formed at forecourts, forcing operators to ration supplies.
But Mr Eustice told broadcasters: “We always have a civil contingencies section within the army, they’re always on standby should they be needed. We don’t judge that is necessary at the moment.”
The minister continued the strategy of blaming panic-buying motorists, saying: “The most important thing is that people buy petrol as they normally would.
“There isn’t a shortage. There have been some shortages of HGV drivers getting petrol to forecourts but actually that is quite limited.
“The cause of these current problems is that panic-buying episode and the most important thing is for people to start buying petrol as they normally would.”