HC Deb 17 February 1970 vol 796 cc192-3
16. Mr. Dempsey

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will give an estimate of the effect on the cost of living of the introduction of decimal currency in 1971; and if he will make a statement

Mr. William Rodgers

Decimalisation, as has repeatedly been made clear, should not of itself lead to any overall increase in price levels.

Mr. Dempsey

Does not my hon. Friend think that commercial retail and distributive interests will round off to the nearest convenient decimal point and, as goods are never rounded down but up, will not there be an increase in prices to consumers?

Mr. Rodgers

I hope that my hon. Friend's fears will prove to have been ill-founded. As the House will know, the Decimal Currency Board has made some clear recommendations by which the new half-penny conversion table will enable prices sometimes to be rounded down, though some may be rounded up.

Sir John Rodgers

Does not the hon. Gentleman think that a decimal system in which two pennies are worth one new penny and three pennies are worth [...]e new penny is bound to lead to an increase in retail prices?

Mr. Rodgers

No. There is no evidence to that effect.

18. Mr. Winnick

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what action the Government intends to take arising from recent proposals for rounding up prices to prevent price increases arising from the change of decimal currency early next year.

Mr. William Rodgers

I have nothing to add to what I said to my hon. Friend in answer to a similar Question on 29th January.—[Vol. 794, c. 387–8.]

Mr. Winnick

Leaving aside any Tory mischief-making on this matter, is it not essential for the Government to take strong action to fight proposals such as that of the London Underground to have a shilling minimum fare? Are the Government willing to reconsider seriously keeping the sixpence?

Mr. Rodgers

We have made it clear that it would be totally inconsistent with Government policy and with the views of both sides of the House on prices that advantage should be taken of decimalisation in any way. As for my hon. Friend's second point, we have made clear in the past our view about the likely future of the sixpence.

Mr. Biffen

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his answers to this Question and Question No. 16 reveal an extraordinarily bland optimism? Is not he, even now, prepared to say that the future of the sixpence is being reconsidered, and will not he take into account the considerable amount of evidence being presented to him on the matter?

Mr. Rodgers

We do not approach this matter in a bland or unreasonable way. We have to be clear that the suggestion of hysteria should not arise and that anxieties should not be unreasonably provoked. I think that the evidence will show when the times comes that increases due to decimalisation will be of a minor kind.