The government is to suspend competition law to allow oil companies to deliver fuel to stations running low, following days of panic buying.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has agreed to implement a measure to temporarily exempt the industry from the Competition Act 1998 for the purpose of sharing information and optimising supply.
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 are most in need.
It comes after several days of long queues appearing at petrol stations across the country amid concerns about fuel shortages.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps previously said the queues and closures at fuel stations were a “manufactured situation” created by the Road Haulage Association (RHA) leaking comments from BP bosses about supply concerns.
However, the government has now decided to weave the rules imposed by the competition law to ensure any “disruption is minimised”.
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.
“We thank HGV drivers and all forecourt staff for their tireless work during this period.”
Fuel shortages in the north-east
Long queues of panicked motorists desperate to load their vehicles started forming at petrol stations across the north-east on Friday amid rumours of a fuel shortage.
Signs to inform drivers of a lack of petrol and diesel started appearing on a number of stations across the region, with some even introducing a spending limit to keep up with “unprecedented customer demand”.
Among the affected sites in Aberdeen today were the Shell garages on Anderson Drive and Wellington Road and the Tesco Express Esso in Pittodrie, which had all put up signs saying they have no fuel at the entrance to their forecourts.
Further along King Street from the Esso, the Shell garage near Donmouth, which is run by the EG Group, had also brought in a £30 limit for people wanting to fill up.
However, HGV drivers and emergency service vehicles were not impacted.
In a statement, the company said the decision was made to ensure all customers “have a fair chance to refuel and to enable their sites to carry on running smoothly”.