HC Deb 03 December 1956 vol 561 cc870-1
33. Mr. Rankin

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what steps, by price control or otherwise, he is taking to prevent the development of a black market in the sale of petrol, which has already begun.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

Persons not normally trading in petrol who acquire supplies for resale are likely to render themselves liable to prosecution under Section 1 of the Petroleum (Consolidation) Act, 1928, which imposes restrictions on the keeping of motor spirit; I have no doubt that those responsible for enforcement will exercise due vigilance. As to price, I have myself received only one report of overcharging by a regular dealer, and I have no reason to believe that this practice is at all widespread or likely to become so.

Mr. Rankin

Is the Minister not aware that the trouble arises from the fact that the rationing scheme which he proposes is regarded as quite inadequate to meet normal purposes, that the basic ration and the supplementary allowance are much too low, and it is on this fear that the black market is now being fostered? Will he look into his scheme again?

Mr. Jones

If a black market does appear, I have powers to enforce price control. If widespread overcharging occurs, I certainly shall not hesitate to re sort to those powers.

Mrs. L. Jeger

What powers has the Minister got to deal with a customer who offers a garage 7s. 6d. a gallon for petrol? Is he not aware that this is happening already, and could he not possibly look again at the practicability of bringing the basic ration forward to end this system?

Mr. Jones

The second part of the hon. Lady's Question touches on Questions which appear later on the Order Paper. As to the first part of her Question, I can only repeat that if there is widespread overcharging, then certainly the Government would not hesitate to enforce the powers of price control which they have assumed.

Captain Pilkington

Would my right hon. Friend care to comment on the fact that the Dolly Varden Garage on the Bag-shot by-pass has been trying to charge motorists 6s. 6d a gallon?

Mr. Jones

That report has not escaped my notice.

Mr. Callaghan

Could we have a more definite expression from the Minister? Does he condemn the practice of garages which are overcharging beyond the normal price? If so, will he introduce price controls?

Mr. Jones

Naturally, I condemn the practice of overcharging. During the last rationing scheme, there was no need to resort to formal price control. I hope that the good spirit of the garage dealers will again make it unnecessary to resort to price control. But if there is widespread overcharging, certainly price control will be enforced.