HC Deb 30 January 1978 vol 943 cc22-4
20. Mr. Townsend

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if, in order to prevent profiteering, particularly at the expense of tourists visiting London, he will seek legislation to require street traders to display prices.

Mr. Maclennan

The Government intend to make an order requiring price display for retail sales of food and drink and we are currently consulting interested parties on our proposals. I am considering whether to include street traders in that order as a means of dealing with most of the undoubted abuses that take place.

Mr. Townsend

Is the Minister aware of the large number of complaints about street traders in central London last summer? Does he recall that I gave an example of a street trader charging £2 for a tin of "Coke"? Will he get a grip on the situation? Does he accept that this is a minimum requirement these days?

Mr. Maclennan

I accept that there has been gross profiteering of the kind described by the hon. Gentleman. I have discussed this matter with the responsible local authorities, which have been helpful, and with the London Tourist Board, which is trying to ensure that sufficient information, advice and warning is given to tourists. I believe that the proposed order on price display for food and drink should cover the most outstanding abuses. It is particularly in connection with soft drinks and ice cream prices that the worst abuses take place.

Mr. James Johnson

Will my hon. Friend take steps to introduce legislation against the pernicious custom of flash offers?

Mr. Maclennan

My hon. Friend may not be aware that I have already indicated that we intend to move in this area.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

Does the Minister accept that the major trouble is bound to come from street traders, many of whom are unlicensed? Does he further accept from hon. Members on both sides of the House who have had local government experience that the present legislation to control unlicensed street traders does not work because neither local authorities nor the police have the staff to control them? Before introducing further legislation, will he ensure that it can be policed effectively rather than simply put it on the statute book?

Mr. Maclennan

The hon. Gentleman is right. Enforcement is a major problem, and it presented real difficulties last summer. In framing our proposals for dealing with this matter we shall bear that aspect very much in mind.

Mr. Clemitson

Referring to profiteering at the expense of tourists, will my hon. Friend investigate reports that tour operators are already charging £1 to people booking air travel holidays for later this year in anticipation of the passing of the Civil Aviation Bill, whereas the Government have stated that the security charge will be only 80p? Where will the other 20p go?

Mr. Maclennan

I shall investigate what my hon. Friend has said, as will no doubt my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade.