The weekend before last every local petrol station was working absolutely fine. Last weekend, as we all know, that was far from the case. Nothing fundamental had changed. There is still masses of petrol available for delivery, deliveries are still being made, there are as many drivers now as there were then. As with any commodity if everyone tries to buy it at the same time, immediately available stocks are not infinite. I am very frustrated that a combination of irresponsible reporting and the actions of a minority led to a very worrying immediate situation for those who need fuel for critically important purposes.
The short term issue is being resolved. The long term issue needs work. Being a long distance haulage driver is not an easy job and the profusion of new more local driving opportunities has presented many alternatives. The impact of this has been felt right across Europe. There is a reason why thousands of licensed HGV drivers in the U.K. are currently not choosing to take up available jobs within the sector.
The issue has been worsened by licensing delays during Covid. 50 per cent more tests than before Covid are now taking place with those numbers being further increased. Alongside this the sector has to consider how they will attract and retain drivers.
The fuel delays are all the frustrating at a time when otherwise much is returning to normal. It’s been great locally to see off the Barns Green Half Marathon, attend a Macmillan Coffee Morning in Broadbridge Heath; see Horsham Rugby getting going again, School and Village fetes and the Repair Cafe/Green Hub back in action.
Last Sunday I attended the Battle of Britain commemoration in Westminster Abbey: wonderful to see still on great form some of those who participated in that momentous battle. After Commons Defence Questions on Monday I had an intense day of discussions, including on the warmly welcomed AUKUS pact, in Tokyo, returning to Edinburgh to welcome allies visiting the start of work on HMS Venturer - the first of our new Type 31 frigates. On Friday it was great to visit Bohunt, followed by constituent surgery meetings and calls with the County Council on Afghan refugees and the CCG on vaccines.
Covid has a long and difficult “tail” to navigate. The HGV testing delays is just one example. Millions face delays to NHS procedures an issue on which the NHS (with its specific extra funding) is very focussed; with furlough ending businesses are working through how they will operate into the future; many businesses including in the travel sector keenly waiting to see the impact of regulations being relaxed.
Huge progress is being made but the full return to “normal” will sadly take time to realise.