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Commissioner Brunner

Volume 972: debated on Monday 29 October 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he expects next to meet Commissioner Brunner.

I expect to meet Commissioner Brunner at the next meeting of the EEC Energy Ministers, which is expected to take place in December.

Will the Minister explain why, pre-tax, premium petrol is 65p per gallon in Britain, 48·5p in Italy, 57·5p in France and 60p in the Federal Republic of Germany? Why should there be those differences?

The hon. Gentleman has quoted from a recent answer given by my Department, but prices are changing all the time and the differences are considerable within the different countries. If he considers the position after tax, he will find that at the pumps in the forecourts—and this is what matters to consumers—our prices are now among the lowest in Europe.

Does the Minister agree that it is part of his responsibilities to ensure that there is not an undue degree of profitability? In the summer, when prices were raised to exhorbitant figures, was there not a 27 per cent. decrease in Italy for regular petrol and a 12 per cent. decrease, on average, in other Community countries for premium petrol? Does not that totally justify our allegation that there was an unfair rip-off of prices both by the oil companies and the dealers? Can the Minister justify the substantial differences between the United Kingdom and the other EEC countries?

He does not need to justify any such thing. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman does any motoring. If he had been out and about he would have noticed that prices are being cut in some garages as competition does its work. Competition is the best protector of the customer and is helping him at present.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I hope to raise this matter on the Adjournment.