HC Deb 20 January 1953 vol 510 cc2-3
1. Miss Burton

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that the rise in the cost of living, due to reduction of food subsidies and price increases of other foods, together with the increased cost of coal, travel and various necessary items of everyday use, is far in excess of the 1s. 6d. for which he stated compensation had been made in his Budget; and if he will, therefore. consider restoring the food subsidies to the level obtaining when he took office

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. R. A. Butler)

The increase in the cost of the subsidised foods has in the event proved equivalent to slightly less than the 1s. 6d. per person per week which I predicted. Apart from this increase, which represents about 4½ points in the Interim Index of Retail Prices, there has been a rise of only about half a point between Budget day—11th March—and 16th December. The answer to the second part of the Question is "No, Sir."

Miss Burton

Is the Chancellor aware that the Secretary of the Old-age Pensioners' Association has stated that the old folk are many shillings short of their requirements every week? I have here the letter giving the details if the Chancellor should be interested. Is he aware that it is no use suggesting that the pensioners should go to the National Assistance Board, because supplementary pensions are not given for extra food? What would he suggest the old age pensioners should do?

Mr. Butler

I shall be glad to look at any communication which the hon. Lady may send me, but I would point out to her and to the House that the old age pensioners would have been much worse off if it had not been for the measures proposed by this Government for the improvement of their pensions.

Dr. Summerskill

Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer aware that the Minister of Food admitted in November that more than 2 million meat rations had not been taken up by the poorest in the country, and will he consider this when he is framing his policy about food subsidies?

Mr. Butler

It is by no means certain which section of the population is not taking up its meat ration.

Miss Ward

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House how much the cost of living has risen owing to nationalisation and how much the old age pensioners have to pay in the way of increased prices for coal and fuel of all kinds? Will he convey to the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) the suggestion that she might do something by dealing with that aspect of the situation?

Miss Burton

Is the Chancellor aware that many old people are having to choose between food and coal in these winter months as they cannot afford both? What does he suggest they should do?

Mr. Butler

In the circumstances, I think I had better let the two hon. Ladies fight it out together.