Britain could be hit by fuel rationing over Christmas as the snow returns, meaning some families could be without heating oil in Arctic conditions. Accusations of price fixing by fuel suppliers are being investigated.
An estimated two million homes as well as many schools, hospitals and other buildings that rely on heating oil will be forced to wait several weeks for deliveries. The timing is bad, as forecasters predicet that the whole of Britain will covered in snow by the end of the weekend.
In the UK, about six per cent of homes use heating oil and in Northern Ireland as many as six out of ten families.
There have been accusations of price fixing after the price of a litre of oil leapt from 40p to 70p in a month. The Office of Fair Trading is investigating these claims.
Energy minister Charles Hendry said: “I have spoken to the Office of Fair Trading about the price of oil, as the enforcement of competition consumer law is a matter for them.
“They have assured me that they are keeping a very close eye on the situation and are keen to receive evidence from members about any market abuse they are experiencing.”
If the snow and freezing weather continues, the situations could be “very serious indeed” said Hendry.
Some homes have been hold they will have to wait three to four weeks for a delivery as Britain’s second Big Freeze kicks in.
Fuel supplies will be rationed in an attempt to make sure no one is without heating over the next few weeks. Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said the Government was “attempting to ensure that people don’t have too much so there is enough to go around”.
Snow began to fall in many places yesterday and forecasters are predicting that the whole country will be covered by the end of the weekend. Temperatures in some parts of the country will be lower than those in the North Pole, reaching 5F (-15).