Page last updated at 14:10 GMT, Friday, 25 April 2008 15:10 UK

Plea to avoid petrol panic buying

 A man refuels his car at a petrol station near Grangemouth Oil Refinery
Stocks are being rationed at some petrol stations in central Scotland

Motorists should not buy more fuel than normal ahead of a planned refinery strike in Scotland, No 10 says.

Workers at the Grangemouth plant are due to take part in a two-day strike from Sunday in a row over pensions.

A spokeswoman said the government was encouraging both sides to get back round the negotiating table.

She said some garages may experience temporary shortages but overall there were enough reserves to keep forecourts supplied during any dispute.

The dispute looks set to close the Forties pipeline, which brings in 700,000 barrels of oil a day - a third of the UK's daily output - from the North Sea.

The pipeline, which brings in oil from 40 different fields, relies on electricity and steam from the nearby Grangemouth complex, in central Scotland.

Sufficient stocks

Downing Street is urging the two sides in the dispute to restart talks after they collapsed earlier this week.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said there is no need for industrial action - and that it is vital for all parties to get back to talking.

Speaking on a visit to Swansea, the prime minister said the conciliation service Acas had been working for weeks to try to resolve the situation. He said people should get round the table as soon as possible.

I hope the vast majority of people are sensible about this
Malcolm Wicks
Energy minister

No 10 also warned that panic buying of petrol could lead to shortages and was not necessary as the industry believed there were sufficient stocks.

"Increasing demand could potentially cause problems for those who need fuel," the spokeswoman said.

Energy minister Malcolm Wicks said the Forties pipeline was a "crucial" piece of infrastructure.

'Patient'

But he added that at the moment there was no agreement between the Unite trade union and Grangemouth owners Ineos about how it was likely to be affected.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme petrol supplies across the UK should not be a problem, but he admitted that some motorists could be hit.

Customers at a petrol station in Scotland

"I cannot guarantee that every garage forecourt will have petrol at that precise moment. I hope the vast majority of people are sensible about this.

"They might have to be patient. People will have to be sensible and rational.

"There are short term stock outs occurring at some filling stations in Scotland, but the petrol industry is confident that they can continue to resupply from stocks and imports, even in the event of this strike going ahead.

"This is not a supply issue, it is a logistical issue and the industry is responding well.

"What is vital is that Ineos and Unite get back to the negotiating table to sort this dispute out and to avoid any further inconvenience in Scotland."

Unite joint leader Tony Woodley will address a mass meeting of workers at Grangemouth later on Friday ahead of Sunday's walkout, which is in protest at plans by Ineos to close its final salary pension scheme to new workers.




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