HC Deb 08 December 1953 vol 521 cc1797-8
42. Mrs. Mann

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he has considered the effect on the retail price index of increased tariffs for fruit and vegetables and of derationing of food in the spring; and if he is satisfied that these proposals will not increase prices and endanger our economy in respect of our export trade.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Yes, Sir. The decisions on horticultural tariffs were reached, as my right hon Friend the President of the Board of Trade told the House on 30th November, after taking fully into account the interests of consumers. The decisions on derationing follow the Government's general policy of removing restrictions where these are no longer necessary. We have confidence that our best contribution to stable prices and the general strength of our economy will come from pursuing our present line of policy.

Mrs. Mann

Can the Chancellor explain how consumers' interests are considered when tomatoes, lettuces, new potatoes, onions, cauliflowers, cucumbers, strawberries, gooseberries and cherries are to be increased in price by doubled import duty? Does the right hon. Gentleman remember his speech at Dundee when he said: We will make one of the most intense attacks ever made on the cost of living."?

Mr. Butler

In answer to the first part of the hon. Lady's supplementary question, I would say that I do not anticipate that the horticultural tariffs will themselves have a very great effect on the cost of living.

Mrs. Mann

The right hon. Gentleman should do his own shopping.

Mr. Butler

In reply to the second part of her question, I am always glad to be reminded of every speech I have made—I would say that for at least the better part of the last year we have been able to maintain the cost of living stable, whereas under the Labour Government it went up to a considerable extent.

Captain Duncan

Will my right hon. Friend not agree that it is in the best interests of the consumers in this country that the producers should be able to earn a decent living?

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. Unless we have producers who can make their living in this country, it is no use having consumers.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

In view of all the wonderful things which the Chancellor has said have just happened, how is it that the £ has fallen in value since October, 1951, to 18s. 5d.?

Mr. Butler

Why was it that in the period of the late Administration—[Interruption.]