HC Deb 20 December 1976 vol 923 cc9-11
9. Mr. Costain

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection whether he will seek powers to require petrol stations to display the actual price at which they are offering petrol. instead of advertising reductions per gallon without showing the maximum price.

17. Mr. Bryan Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if he will seek powers to compel petrol stations clearly to advertise the full price of petrol on their forecourts.

21. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what action he proposes to take to improve the display of prices of petrol.

Mr. John Fraser

If the voluntary agreement on the display of petrol prices does not become more widely observed, we shall have to take further action. I am considering carefully whether the statutory powers to improve price display under the Prices Act 1974 ought now to be used.

Mr. Costain

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that that is quite unsatisfactory? Surely he is not satisfied with the present situation, where we are told that we get 8p, 9p, 10p or 11p off but probably pay the same price in the end. Surely he will take action to put the matter right. The present situation is misleading to say the least.

Mr. Fraser

I agree wholeheartedly with the hon. Gentleman that it is misleading and requires action to be taken. The only reason for delay is that a voluntary agreement was reached between the oil companies, the petrol retailers and the Director General of Fair Trading. We thought it right to give the agreement a chance and to see whether it would work. From the volume of complaints from members of the public and the correspondence received, it can be seen that the agreement is not thought to be working properly. That is why I shall take further action.

Mr. Davies

Will my hon. Friend accept that I take some encouragement from his reply? Bearing in mind the report of the trading officer in Enfield, does he accept that the voluntary agreement is worthless in terms of tackling this problem? Does he not now have sufficient evidence to propose the legislation which is quite clearly necessary?

Mr. Fraser

Yes, I have had reports from trading standards officers throughout the country, including Enfield. I am awaiting further reports. As soon as I have been able to consider all the evidence, I shall put proposals before the House.

Mr. Freud

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is very nearly two years since he or his predecessors gave exactly the same evasive answers to very similar questions? All that the general public want from a filling station is to know the price of petrol and, if necessary, what added incentive there is to that price. Surely that cannot be difficult.

Mr. Fraser

I very much welcome the support that is coming from all parts of the House for taking statutory action.

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