HC Deb 03 November 1959 vol 612 c849
38. Mr. Collick

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why there has not been a fall in prices and in the cost of living having regard to the drop in import prices; and what steps he proposes to take to bring this about.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Derick Heathcoat Amory)

Imports account for only one-fifth of the total costs entering into consumer prices, and there has been no substantial fall in import prices since March, 1958. Wages and salaries, which form a much larger part of the total, have risen considerably. In these circumstances I regard it as not unsatisfactory that the retail price index has been approximately stable for eighteen months.

Mr. Collick

Does the Chancellor remember that he himself, six months ago, said that there ought to be a reduction in retail prices in the shops? How can he come to the House and give a reply like that, in view of his own speech?

Mr. Amory

I have stated the facts here. I should like to repeat my hope that there will be further reductions in many prices.

Mr. H. Wilson

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the letter from my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Thornton) published in yesterday's Guardian showing that, in the case of raw cotton, there has been a fall of 16 per cent. over the past 12 or 18 months, while the price of cotton cloth has fallen by only 1 per cent.? Since similar figures could be shown for a large number of other industries, will he, in conjunction with the President of the Board of Trade, make a survey industry by industry of what has been happening?

Mr. Amory

I very much doubt whether that would produce useful results. Far and away the best answer to this problem is to encourage the widest possible amount of competition.

Mr. Collick

Mr. Speaker, may I remind the Chancellor—

Mr. Speaker

Is this a point of order? If not, I call the next Question. Mr. Brewis, Question No. 40.