The Petrol Retailers’ Association has expressed concern over the rise in availability of illicit fuel and has called on Government to take action after HM Revenue & Customs announced a rapid increase of illicit fuel detections.

The number of detections in Great Britain have increased by 132% over the past four years.

Brian Madderson, PRA chairman said: "This is just another manifestation of the crime wave engulfing the retail road fuels market.

"A stagnant economy gives rise to unemployment and lowers real wages. The result is that criminal activity becomes an alternative despite the risks.

"HMRC has successfully targeted illicit fuel in Northern Ireland with detections reducing by 14.7% over the past four years.

"However in that time illicit fuel detections in Great Britain have increased by 132%. Therefore it is time for HMRC to focus its efforts on Great Britain and the PRA will assist in any way possible.

"Independent service stations continue to close at the rate of 175-200 each year, mostly in challenged rural areas. Illicit fuel sales will undermine the financial model of these important sites."