HC Deb 07 February 1977 vol 925 cc1035-7
11. Mr. Costain

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection whether he has yet received further reports from trading standards officers throughout the country on the display of prices in pertol station forecourts; and if he now intends to seek powers under the Prices Act 1974 to improve price display.

23. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if he will now introduce legislation for improved petrol price display.

27. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if he is satisfied with the working of the voluntary agreement on petrol price display.

Mr. John Fraser

I have received a number of reports indicating a poor level of compliance with the voluntary agreement on petrol price display. Most of them, however, relate to a period last year when the agreement had only recently been settled. On my behalf the Office of Fair Trading has therefore asked local authority associations to help with a national survey this month. In the meantime my officials are preparing a draft order under the Prices Act 1974 with the same objectives as the voluntary agreement. Unless the survey demonstrates that the voluntary agreement has worked, I shall immediately begin statutory consultations on the draft order.

Mr. Costain

Is the Minister aware that we welcome the Secretary of State's belief in competition? The reason for my question is to see that competition is fair. Why must the hon. Gentleman wait so long before acting?

Mr. Fraser

The reason is that, having reached a voluntary agreement with the oil companies and the petrol retailers, I think that it would be a breach of faith not to give that agreement a chance to work. I shall not disguise the fact that I am disappointed with its working so far. If it does not work properly very soon, we shall have a statutory price display order.

Mr. Evans

Does my hon. Friend realise that his feelings on this matter will be shared by the vast majority of motorists, who are disturbed by the gross variation between one petrol filling station and another? Does he realise that a survey in mid-Glamorgan showed a variation from 73p to 86p for four-star petrol, and that motorists cannot see the price until they are in the forecourt having their cars filled? Will my hon. Friend examine the matter quickly and act urgently, because there is a great deal of feeling about it?

Mr. Fraser

I shall certainly act urgently on price display. Price variation is a function of competition, which is benefiting the motorist. I want to see that competition working more effectively, not less.

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