HC Deb 05 November 1980 vol 991 cc1277-8
16. Mr. Major

asked the Minister of Transport how many applications he has received from private developers for the operation of the motorway service stations.

Mr. Fowler

I am glad to say that excellent progress is being made. I have agreed terms, subject to contract, for the sale of half the service areas in England and negotiations are well advanced on the others.

Mr. Major

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. It is very good news. Will he go a little further and advise the House when he expects the negotiations for the sale of the remaining service stations to be completed?

Mr. Fowler

I very much hope that the bulk of the negotiations will be completed in the next few weeks. Once they are completed I shall make a full state-men to the House.

Mr. Bidwell

Will the Minister discourage those who wish to sell alcoholic drinks on motorways? Not only does the consumption of alcohol lead to deaths on the road; it leads to gross ill-behaviour at football matches and so on. Will he encourage only those operators who promise not to sell alcoholic drinks?

Mr. Fowler

No one sells alcohol on the motorways at the moment. We have no intention of changing that position. In other words, it will remain as it is today.

Mr. Michael Brown

I welcome my right hon. Friend's announcement. In the negotiations that are taking place, does he intend to draw attention to the fact that in recent weeks and months an exorbitant charge for petrol has been made at service stations? Will he ensure the House that in the negotiations he will make it clear that he expects to see the same healthy element of competition on petrol sales at service stations as on the consumption of food?

Mr. Fowler

That is one of the purposes of what we are seeking to do. We believe that as a result of this policy there will be much greater competition between motorway service areas. There will certainly be competition in price on petrol. I think that we shall see signs of that very shortly. Increased competition is a much better way of achieving better standards than the catering inspections that the previous Labour Government had in mind.

Mr. Crowther

Further to what the Minister said to his hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Scunthorpe (Mr. Brown), does he believe that this exploitation of motorists can be stopped only by positive price control over petrol?

Mr. Fowler

No. That was the last and totally discredited policy of the Labour Government. I ask the hon. Gentleman to wait a few months and then see what the situation is. I think that the best way forward is by competition. I believe that he will find that his words ring fairly hollow in a few months' time.