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Petrol Retailing

Volume 884: debated on Wednesday 15 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he has received the letter from Mr. A. T. V. Johnson, managing director of the Melton Garage, Burton Street, Melton Mowbray, dated 20th December, which states that a 10p increase in the wholesale price of petroleum spirit gives the retailer an additional profit of 0·576p per gallon, and a 10·50p increase gives him an additional profit of 0·790p per gallon; what reply he has sent; and whether he accepts those figures as accurate and in accordance with his departmental calculations.

My right hon. Friend has received the letter, and my Department has replied explaining that as the maximum retail price of petrol is no longer controlled dealers' margins may vary according to the terms of supply and their own marketing decisions. But petrol retailers, like other distributors, will still have to observe the requirements of the Price Code.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what consultative procedures he employs to discuss Government policies and proposals with representatives of petroleum retailers; what official organisations he recognises for the purpose of such consultations; and on how many occasions he or other Ministers in his Department met representatives of each of those organisations since March 1974.

General sponsorship responsibility for the garage trade rests with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry who, I understand, recognises the Motor Agents' Association, with which is associated the Scottish Motor Trade Association and the Petroleum Association. No meetings with the associations have been held by Ministers of my Department since March 1974, but my officials have been in touch with them as necessary.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy from what sources, other than the Civil Service, he sought information about the average length of time petroleum spirit is held in stock by retailers, prior to his decision to permit a price increase of wholesale petroleum on 17th December; and why he did not consult the Motor Agents' Association about this matter before taking his decision.

The increase in the wholesale prices of oil products on 18th December was in accordance with the criteria of the Price Code. It followed the expiration of the 28 days' notice that the oil companies are obliged to give to the Price Commission.My right hon. Friend made the decision to delay the lifting of the maximum retail price control on motor spirit until 20th December to guard against the possibility of profiteering on old stocks, taking into account information from a number of sources about petroleum retailing.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy upon what criteria he based his decision to permit petrol supply companies to increase the wholesale price of petroleum spirit from midnight on 17th December 1974 while maintaining controls over the price of petroleum spirit until midnight on Thursday 19th December; what representations he has received from petroleum retailers about this; what reply he has sent; and whether he will make a statement.

In removing the maximum retail price controls altogether, it was the responsibility of the Government to guard against unfair profiteering at the expense of the consumer. The problems of the retailer and the needs of the consumer were both taken into account and my right hon. Friend considered that the two-day delay was a fair compromise. This has been explained to those retailers who made representations. I do not consider there is a need to make a statement.