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Motorway Service Areas

Volume 979: debated on Wednesday 20 February 1980

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asked the Minister of Transport when he proposes to introduce the necessary legislation to dispose of motorway service areas.

Legislation is not required. Arrangements for the disposal of motorway service areas in accordance with my policy statement of 22 October are well under way. I have appointed Messrs. Richard Ellis, one of the leading firms of chartered surveyors, to assist me with sales.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will he tell us what his plans are for relaxing the rules governing advertising slogans bearing the names of operators in service areas? Has he any intention of using a starring system—or something similar—for facilities at motorway service areas?

The answer to both questions is "Yes". The policy of the previous Government was that Government should solemnly undertake inspections by the Department four times a year in an attempt to check standards at motorway service areas. We have rejected that and have given new freedom to operators in order to ensure greater competition. We plan to introduce a star rating system which, we hope, will be assessed by the motoring organisations. We believe that, by allowing the service area operators to advertise their own names, it will make a contribution to improving the services.

In all seriousness, will the Minister explain how these proposals will improve the appalling standard of service—alongside high prices for food—at the private enterprise motorway service facilities? Does he realise that their standards make a British Rail pork pie look like a gourmet item?

That would be an unusual attribute. We have had 20 years of control of motorway service areas, with Government Departments solemnly sending out inspectors to look at the standard of fish and chips in motorway cafes. That did not improve results. We believe that competition will effect an improvement and that is why we have introduced it.