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Petrol (Retail Margins)

Volume 891: debated on Monday 28 April 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection whether she will make a statement about her future intentions for legislation, following publication of the Price Commission's report on petrol retail margins.

I have not yet received the Price Commission's final report. The interim report published in March did not suggest grounds for legislation.

Does my right hon. Friend recollect that at the time of the November Budget garages and oil companies were saying that they had to have an increase on top of the VAT increase for their very survival? Has she noticed that we now have garages offering up to 6p a gallon discount and even sixfold stamps in some places?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I am told by garages that they have been pressurised by oil companies to give these discounts? As they were very loud in asking for the last increase and as they can now afford to give large discounts, should not the Price Commission be asked to re-examine this whole question?

The Price Commission's interim report suggests that one of the reasons for price cutting and for the offer of stamps many times over —I take note of what my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) said—is mainly that a price war is going on in garages against a situation of falling demand. However, I add that in so far as this price cutting may be due to pressure from oil companies on solus tied garages this is a matter that I have asked the Director General of Fair 'Trading to look at again in connection with the report of the Monopolies Commission which concerned itself with solus trading.

Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that the Government will adopt no policies the object of which is to keep petroleum prices up?

The right hon Gentleman can accept our assurance on that. He will know that one of the reasons why my right hon. Friend withdrew the maximum prices order at the end of last year was that in the face of rising supplies there were indications that prices would fall rather than rise.