Soldiers will be driving petrol tankers within days as ministers seek to resolve fuel crisis

Soldiers have been drafted in to ease fuel on petrol stations. Credit: PA

Soldiers will be delivering fuel to petrol stations within days, the business secretary has confirmed, as the government seeks to resolve the ongoing crisis.

Kwasi Kwarteng told broadcasters the situation on petrol station forecourts - which for days have seen long queues of drivers desperate to refuel - is "stabilising", as he urged people to stop panic-buying.

The army has been drafted in to reduce pressure at petrol stations, and "in the next couple of days people will see some soldiers driving the tanker fleet", Mr Kwarteng said.

Supply issues have hit petrol stations due to a shortage of HGV drivers, which is why the army is assisting, however there is no shortage of fuel at refineries in the UK.

Asked if he could rule out Christmas deliveries being impacted by the driver shortage, Mr Kwarteng said: "I'm not guaranteeing anything."

The government is hoping potential drivers can be swiftly trained, with a backlog of more than 50,000 licence applications waiting to be processed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a message to the public on Tuesday evening in a bid to calm nerves, insisting "supply is coming back onto the forecourt in the normal way".

Up to 150 military drivers are on standby however it is not clear how many will be used to operate tankers.

A further 150 drivers’ mates are also ready to help out as part of the military effort.

There have been sprawling queues for fuel at petrol stations around the country. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Officials from the business department and the Ministry of Defence are working with the petrol industry on where the drivers will be best placed to support.

On Tuesday Mr Johnson tried to calm nerves about the supply chain problems affecting businesses across the country.

“We now are starting to see the situation improve, we’re hearing from industry that supply is coming back onto the forecourt in the normal way.

'Supplies are coming back on to the forecourts in the normal way,' says Boris Johnson

“And I would just really urge everybody to just go about their business in the normal way and fill up in the normal way when you really need it and you know, things will start to improve.

“What we want to do is make sure that we have all the preparations necessary to get through to Christmas and beyond, not just in the supply in the petrol stations, but all parts of our supply chain.”

Following days of chaos, with long queues for petrol and stations running dry, the Prime Minister said he understood the frustration felt by drivers as they struggled to fill up.

The PM has completely lost grip': Starmer blames Johnson for fuel 'chaos'

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the government of reducing the country to “chaos” through its failure to deal with the fuel crisis.

The Labour leader said the haulage industry was “beyond frustrated” at the lack of a clear plan by ministers to alleviate the problems caused by the shortage of tanker drivers.

Sir Keir blamed a "failure of planning" by the prime minister, saying it was a "predictable" problem that ministers should have started working on as soon as the UK left the EU.

In an interview with ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston, he said: "Once the decision had been taken to exit the EU, then it was obvious that we needed to deal with the consequences.

Credit: PA

"One of which was there would be consequences in relation to lorry drivers.

"We took that decision in 2016 - it’s five years later and whether you voted leave or remain you’ve got to deal with the consequences and the government has simply put its head in the sand."

Mr Johnson rejected calls for healthcare staff and other workers to be given priority access to fuel, suggesting it was unnecessary given the easing of the situation.

After the government announced it would be issuing 5,000 temporary visas to foreign lorry drivers to alleviate the shortages which led to the crisis, he also dismissed demands for more overseas workers to be admitted.

“What I don’t think people in this country want to do is fix all our problems with uncontrolled immigration,” he said.

His comments came after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps acknowledged Brexit, which cut off the supply of drivers from the EU, had been a “factor” in the crisis.