HC Deb 16 February 1956 vol 548 cc2502-3
23. Mr. Willey

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will take steps to reduce the prices of essential foodstuffs.

5. Mr. Lewis

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is aware of the continued rise in the price of food since November; what is the reason for this; and what action he now proposes to take to stabilise and reduce the cost of food.

Mr. Amory

The Interim Index of Retail Prices, which is the only reliable Indicator of changes in average food prices, shows a fall of nearly 1 per cent. in the food group between November and December last, the latest months for which the Index figure is available. As regards the stabilisation and reduction of prices, it is the policy of the Government to rely on the forces of competition in a free market and on vigorous anti-inflationary measures.

Mr. Willey

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that fall is seasonal and is to be expected? Does not he appreciate that the increase in food prices has been due to the deliberate fiscal policy of the Government, and that if the Government are now endeavouring to stabilise or reduce prices a burden is placed upon them not to leave this matter to the market or to free enterprise but to intervene actively to reduce or stabilise food prices?

Mr. Amory

I take the contrary view.

Mr. Osborne

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Interim Index of Retail Prices has risen in the last eight years by 54 per cent. whereas the domestic coal price index has risen by 110 per cent. in the same period?