image source, PA Media

The government is to suspend competition law to allow oil firms to target fuel deliveries at petrol stations following recent panic buying.

Officials said the move would make it easier for companies to share information and prioritise parts of the country most at need.

It follows days of long queues at the pumps after fears of disruption to the fuel supply sparked panic buying.

Ministers are also considering deploying the Army to deliver fuel.

The Petrol Retailers Association has warned that as many as two-thirds of its membership of nearly 5,500 independent outlets are out of fuel, with the rest of them "partly dry and running out soon".

Announcing the measure to exempt the oil industry from the Competition Act 1998, Business Secretary Kwasi 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 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."

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A shortage of lorry drivers has caused problems for a range of industries in recent months, from supermarkets to fast food chains.

In recent days, some fuel deliveries have been affected, leading to panic buying and lengthy queues at some petrol stations.

On Saturday the government announced measures to give temporary visas, lasting until Christmas Eve, to 5,000 fuel tanker and food lorry drivers and 5,500 poultry workers in a bid to limit disruption in the build up to Christmas.

But retailers and hauliers warned the scheme would not be enough to solve supply chain issues.

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