Petrol station chaos: Govt suspends rules for oil firms in bid to ease shortages

26 September 2021, 21:05 | Updated: 26 September 2021, 23:32

The Government hopes suspending competition law will help with petrol station shortages
The Government hopes suspending competition law will help with petrol station shortages. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Competition laws for the fuel industry have been suspended by the Government to try and tackle the petrol station shortage crisis.

The move will allow oil companies to target stations running low on fuel after days of panic buying.

Chaos has broken out at several of the nation's forecourts, with some motorists coming to blows as they try to fill up their cars.

Several stations have shut after running out of supply while others have seen huge traffic jams grow.

The Government stressed there is no shortage of fuel. The problem lies with transporting it to the stations because of a lack of HGV drivers.

But pleas to avoid panic buying have fallen on deaf ears for many, with huge queues of cars snaking away from petrol stations, many forecourts closing due to running out of fuel and even fights breaking out near the pumps.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said on Sunday he agreed to a temporary measure which exempts the industry from the Competition Act 1998 so they can share information and improve supply.

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Government officials said the move will allow companies to prioritise where fuel is sent to, ensuring locations that need it the most get deliveries.

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.

Read more: Ambulance crashes into car trying to get past long fuel queue

"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.

"We thank HGV drivers and all forecourt staff for their tireless work during this period."

The driver issue has existed for some time in the UK, and it was exacerbated by the Covid pandemic as workers left for their home countries.

The Government has offered 5,000 temporary visas to HGV drivers in a bid to help the problem, but some estimates suggest 90,000 are needed for fuel and other supplies.

It has also announced it will increase HGV licence testing and fund a new "skills bootcamps" to train up to 3,000 more people to become lorry drivers.

Saturday brought images of drivers filling up jerry cans as stations imposed £30 spending limits.

Fights have even broken out at forecourts. A driver filmed a brawl take place in front of fuel pumps, with two people throwing punches and lashing out with kicks before grappling each other to the ground in Chichester.

Another fight nearby appeared to end with handshakes.

On Sunday afternoon, a scuffle broke out at a station in Haverstock Hill, North London.

Several people intervened and police arrived to arrest a man on suspicion of assault.

Separately, an ambulance was filmed travelling to a patient with its blue lights flashing when it hit a car as it tried to cross a queue of vehicles at a petrol station.

The London Ambulance Service said it was out of action for a short time after the Bromley Hill incident and another crew attended to the patient.