HC Deb 06 April 1977 vol 929 cc507-8W
Mr. Lomas

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if he will now introduce legislation to improve the display of petrol prices.

Mr. John Fraser

Yes. I told the House on 7th February that the local authority associations had agreed to carry out a national survey to establish the extent of compliance with the voluntary agreement on petrol price display introduced last September. The results of that survey indicate that of those garages with a promotional display of some sort little more than half were complying with the code. This overall result conceals considerable differences between one area and another, and in some cases the reasons for non-compliance may not be serious. Nevertheless it is clear that voluntary measures are not enough to secure general adherence, and we now propose to take statutory action to ensure that the objectives of the agreement are attained.

We have decided to introduce an order under Section 4 of the Prices Act 1974 to regulate the display of petrol prices. We intend that the order should provide that every pump should be marked with the price of the petrol. We also intend that where garages are advertising their prices or price reductions their signs should be clear and unambiguous, and that the information which we shall require should be at least as prominent as any other information. Provisions will be introduced to this end broadly on the lines of the voluntary agreement. The trade organisations such as the Motor Agents Association and most of the major oil companies co-operated in the drawing up of the voluntary agreement and have encouraged their members to comply with it. I am grateful for their efforts, and I regret that so many petrol retailers have not followed their lead, so making statutory action necessary. We shall, of course, consult the trade and other interested bodies on our new proposals.

We shall shortly send out a consultative document explaining the detailed provisions which we have in mind and we shall press ahead with the aim of making an order next month.