HC Deb 17 November 1955 vol 546 cc751-2
4. Mr. Fernyhough

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the increase in consumers' expenditure on food between October, 1951, and the latest available date; and how much of the increased expenditure, as compared with 1951 prices, was due to an increase in the volume of consumption and how much to the increase in prices.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Sir Edward Boyle)

Estimates of consumers' expenditure on food are available only for quarterly periods, and because of seasonal variations comparisons can properly be made only for comparable quarters. Between the second quarter of 1951 and the second quarter of 1955, the latest for which figures are available, consumers' expenditure on food is estimated to have increased from £739 million to £1,032 million, or by 40 per cent. The increase in volume of consumption was about 9 per cent., while prices rose about 28 per cent.

Mr. Fernyhough

Does the Economic Secretary realise that his answer contains the Government's problem in relation to the trade unions, and that this is the justification for the wage increases which are now being pursued by the trade unions? Does he not think he ought to do something to stabilise prices?

Sir E. Boyle

I really think that an increase in the volume of consumption of food by 9 per cent. is not as bad as all that.

Mr. H. Wilson

As there is now no Finance Bill on the Order Paper, will the hon. Gentleman suggest to his right hon. Friend that he consider the whole question all over again and introduce a new Finance Bill which will deal with the problem revealed by the answer to this Question in relation to prices, instead of aggravating the price rise as proposed in the Finance Bill which we were so lately discussing?

Sir E. Boyle

That is another question.