UK suspends competition laws to get fuel to petrol stations

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UK suspends competition laws to get fuel to petrol stations
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Ministers have suspended competition laws to enable oil companies to target petrol stations running dry after days of panic buying.

This reaction to the shortage of HGV drivers has caused “serious problems” at petrol stations with at least half of non motorway forecourts reporting they are out of fuel.

Kwasi Kwarteng met with oil companies and retailers on Sunday to address a third day of queuing for the pumps, with thousands of petrol stations left empty.

The business secretary agreed to temporarily exempt the industry from the Competition Act 1998 so that companies can communicate and optimise supply.

A line of vehicles queue to fill up at a Tesco petrol station in Camberley, west of London, on Sunday (AFP via Getty Images)
A line of vehicles queue to fill up at a Tesco petrol station in Camberley, west of London, on Sunday (AFP via Getty Images)

Officials said the measure will make it easier for industry to share information so that they can prioritise the delivery of fuel to the parts of the country and strategic locations that need it most.

Mr Kwarteng said: “We have long-standing contingency plans in place to work with industry so that fuel supplies can be maintained and deliveries can still be made in the event of a serious disruption.

“While there has always been and continues to be plenty of fuel at refineries and terminals, we are aware that there have been some issues with supply chains.

“This is why we will enact the Downstream Oil Protocol to ensure industry can share vital information and work together more effectively to ensure disruption is minimised.”

A Shell petrol station in Bracknell (PA)
A Shell petrol station in Bracknell (PA)

Mr Kwarteng thanked HGV drivers and forecourt staff for their “tireless work” during the chaos.

Queues at petrol stations continued for a third day on Sunday despite reassurances from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps that there is “plenty” of fuel available.

Thousands of petrol stations have run dry amid the “frenzied” panic buying as ministers were warned their plan for solving the HGV driver shortage would not prevent bare shop shelves this Christmas.

Chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association Brian Madderson said the government was “loath to recognise” that supplies were stuck at refineries or storage depots.

In this way, he added, they were not being delivered to forecourts due to current supply issues.

The government has announced a temporary visa scheme that will see 5,000 foreign HGV drivers and 5,500 poultry workers allowed into the UK on three-month contracts up to Christmas Eve.

It is an attempt to keep supermarket shelves stocked with turkeys and tackle fuel delivery difficulties.

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