HC Deb 19 January 1981 vol 997 cc7-9
11. Mr. Speller

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what further references are being made to the National Union of Townswomen's Guilds.

29. Mr. McQuarrie

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he has any plans to refer any matters to the National Union of Townswomen's Guilds.

The Minister for Consumer Affairs (Mrs. Sally Oppenheim)

On 20 November 1980 I sought the views of the National Union of Townswomen's Guilds on the scope and content of the consumer education pack which we are preparing for use in schools. It has expressed initial satisfaction and pleasure with my proposals in outline, and I await a more detailed response.

Mr. Speller

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the broadened base of consultation, but will she, while consulting the urban ladies, not omit the rural ladies of the women's institutes?

Mrs. Oppenheim

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. I consulted the National Federation of Women's Institutes on children's reaction to advertising, and I recently received its report, which was extremely useful. I greatly value the extended communications that I have with the commonsense, grassroot opinions provided both by the National Union of Townswomen's Guilds and by the women's institutes.

Mr. Michael Brown

My right hon. Friend mentioned common sense in her discussions with the townswomen's guilds and the women's institutes. Did they offer her any common sense in the matter of the use of gallons or litres in the sale of petrol?

Mrs. Oppenheim

I have not made this reference to them, but I feel that I know what their views are. I should like to make the Government's position clear. The Government have not required the change. I personally regret it. During the passage of the Weights and Measures Bill under the previous Government I carried an amendment to exempt the statutory imposition of metrication where gallons were used. This is a purely technical matter that has arisen within the industry because of technical difficulties with petrol pumps. I regret that the change has been necessary, but I accept that it has. I personally shall select garages that still sell petrol by gallons, wherever that is possible.

Mr. John Fraser

Since the right hon. Lady measures her car's engine in litres, I do not see why she should object if other people tend to measure petrol in the same way. Can she enunciate her principles on consultation? Is she consulting one organisation on one order? Surely on a consumer education pack one should consult rather more widely than one institution.

Mrs. Oppenheim

The hon. Gentleman is right. I am consulting widely. The education pack, as he will recall from his own safety pratice, is not an order. It is an initiative of the Minister. I am consulting widely with all interested parties.

Mr. Marlow

Will my right hon. Friend agree with me that, to a certain extent, the discussion by petrol companies with regard to technical problems is a smokescreen, and that the petrol pump meters that exist at the moment could be used?

Mrs. Oppenheim

I know that this is my hon. Friend's view, which he has expressed to me on a number of occasions. It is not, however, the view of those involved in the technical production of the apparatus. As my hon. Friend will be aware, the increase in the price of petrol in recent years has produced difficulties for the mechanism of existing petrol pumps in keeping up with the increase. That is not only true in this country but also in the United States, where, by coincidence, the price of petrol is $1.30-something. The United States is also changing—I believe that it will regret doing so—to metrication.