§ 24. Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will reconsider his decision to remove the bread subsidy in view of the hardship caused by the recent increase in bread prices.
No, Sir. In current conditions of full employment and high earnings, these general subsidies cannot be justified.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
Will the right hon. Gentleman take note of the elementary fact that it is the poorest people who have to spend the highest percentage of their income on bread? In these circumstances, and with milk and sugar going up as well, is it not quite unreasonable to expect old-age pensioners and people earning low wages to refrain from pressing for higher pensions and wages?
I agree with what the hon. and gallant Gentleman says about the price of bread falling heaviest on the poorest section of the community. That is true, but that does not justify a general food subsidy to everyone in the country at the present time. The Government have shown by their actions that they are very sensible of their responsibilities to 1054 the old-age pensioners, to those on National Assistance, to war pensioners and to other handicapped sections of the nation.
§ Mr. Willey
Will the right hon. Gentleman try to be a little more responsible? Will he explain to the Chancellor that this is a pure redistribution of income, that we really cannot hold the cost of living by putting up the price of bread and that this is an aggravation of what we all accept as a very difficult situation facing the country?
I think that the best service which can be rendered to everyone in the country, and most particularly to those who have to live on small fixed incomes, is to end inflation and to stabilise the general price level. We are not dissatisfied with the progress being made in that direction.
§ Mr. Willey
Could the right hon. Gentleman explain how one ends inflation by putting up the price of bread?
A contribution towards ending inflation is surely to get rid of any item of Government expenditure which cannot be fully justified in prevailing circumstances.
§ Sir I. Fraser
Can the Minister say by how much a week a wage would have to be raised to compensate for this proposed rise in the price of bread and milk?
As regards bread, I am informed that the 10d. loaf is now available to about 70 per cent. of the population. The increase, on the basis of a 10d. loaf, would represent about 8½d. for an average household. On the basis of a 10½d. loaf, it would be about 11½d. for an average household. For an old-age pensioner household, the increases would be 3¾d. and 5d. respectively.