HC Deb 07 November 1967 vol 753 cc836-8
Q6. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a copy of his speech at Cambridge on 28th October on food prices.

Q8. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech at Cambridge on 28th October on the subject of council house rents.

The Prime Minister

I have already done so, Sir.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I thank the Prime Minister for that courtesy, but would he not be better employed if, instead of deceiving innocent undergraduates by cooking up misleading figures to show that food prices have fallen when in fact they have risen, he devoted his ingenuity to devising constructive policies to reduce the cost of living in fact as well as in fiction?

The Prime Minister

I was not addressing undergraduates, but someone seems to have passed on that kind of attitude to the hon. Member in his study of the figures. I was giving the figures for wages earnings, hourly and weekly rates, and prices in the whole period from the beginning of the standstill in July, 1966. That was a period of 15 months and the figures I gave were on that basis. Had I chosen the Financial Times index, which the Hon. Member will respect, I think it would be shown that from September to September there was a fall in food prices. It one takes the Government index it shows a rise of 3½d. in the £ against 1s. in the £ from September, 1963, to September, 1964.

Mr. Mitchell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that during the last 12 months many councils have had to impose very heavy rent increases and that this has made much more difficult the Government's attempt to introduce a prices and incomes policy? Does he intend to introduce legislation to deal with this problem?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend has drawn this to the attention of the House. I know how strongly he feels about it. It was one of the main themes of the speech complained about by right hon. Members opposite. While increases must happen because of increased costs, I served warning that we shall watch the position of provocative rent increases, particularly where they are harmful to the working of the prices and incomes policy.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Is the Prime Minister aware that he sought to compare the index of June, 1966, with that of September, 1967? Will he say what happened to that major part of the food price index which leaves out the seasonal and imported components?

The Prime Minister

The reason I chose these dates was that it was the whole period of wage restraint and the rest. It was a period of 15 months. In regard to food prices, in one index there was a rise of 1½ per cent. from September to September, but the Financial Times index showed a fall of 1½ per cent. from September to September. The hon. Member can take his choice. The period September to September rules out the effect of the double seasonal move. The figures for 1963–1964 were 3½ times as great.

Mr. Concannon

After my right hon. Friend's speech at Cambridge about rents, would it now be possible to send him copies of the rent rebate schemes for comment or, better still, for action?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, my right hon. Friend has given a lot of guidance to local authorities about rent rebate schemes. What I was concerned about was, not the degree of rent rebates, but the very provocative and inconsiderate increases by some authorities.

Mr. Jopling

Will the Prime Minister realise that he cannot in one Session tell the House that the Financial Times index shows that food prices have dropped from September to September when the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said on 29th September that food prices had risen from September to September? Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was using the right figures and that food prices in fact rose during that period?

The Prime Minister

Not only did I tell the House a few minutes ago that on the official figures food prices were up by 1½ per cent. on a yearly basis from September to September, whereas the Financial Times index showed that food prices had fallen, but at the meeting, in addition to giving the figures up to September from the Financial Times index, though this was not something I was asked. I said that there was a further rise from October to October.

Mr. Roebuck

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the efforts the Government have made to keep prices down. Is he aware that, if we entered the Common Market, prices would go through the roof?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I do not accept that figure. The estimates we have formed of the effect of acceptance of the agricultural policy of E.E.C. show a much smaller increase than that my hon. Friend has in mind.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker


Forward to