HC Deb 21 July 1970 vol 804 cc229-31
30 and 31. Mr. Alfred Morris

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if he proposes to use the machinery of the National Board for Prices and Incomes for the examination of price increases for foodstuffs; and if he will make a statement;

(2) if he proposes to require food manufacturers to justify price increases to him; and if he will make a statement.

32 and 33. Mr. Moyle

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if he proposes to continue to operate the early warning system for price increases in manufacturing foodstuffs; and if he will make a statement;

(2) what discussions he is having with the Food Manufacturers' Federation on food price increases; and if he will make a statement.

26. Mr. Judd

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on how many occasions he has intervened to stop increases in the retail prices of food.

Mr. Prior

I cannot at present add to the reply I gave the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) on 7th July, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity proposes to make a statement before the Recess on the Government's general policy on these matters.—[Vol. 803, c. 25.]

Mr. Morris

Is the Minister aware that even my hon. Friend did not regard that as a reply? Can he be more specific and definitive? [Interruption.] I have two Questions down, and I should be allowed two supplementaries. Is the Minister aware that many people want the Conservative Party to honour its pledge and not virtually to ignore unjustified price increases, so that they have no scrutiny at all?

Mr. Prior

The hon. Member had better wait for my right hon. Friend's statement.

Mr. Moyle

Will the right hon. Gentleman understand that the early warning system was entered into with the voluntary agreement of the food manufacturers and therefore will he think before he drops the idea?

Mr. Prior

Yes, but from what I gather from the food manufacturers they did not think much of it.

Mr. Emery

Does my right hon. Friend realise that many hon. Members on this side of the House would like to see the National Board for Prices and Incomes done away with and do not want any action from him to sustain it? If the early warning system, as operated by his Department, were done away with, would it mean a considerable reduction in expenditure by the Ministry of Agriculture?

Mr. Prior

We must await the statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State later in the week. The answer to the second part of my hon. Friend's question is, "Yes; to do away with the early warning system would result in an economy."

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

In view of the current practices during the dock strike in relation to apples and oranges, for example, which the right hon. Gentleman himself has deplored, does he still believe that it would be best for the country, and particularly for the housewife, to continue with competition and the market forces that he has advocated?

Mr. Prior

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Barnett

Is the Minister's hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Home Office conducting the Government in the same style as himself, because he committed him yesterday to power to control prices at the retail point in the present strike? Does the Minister agree, and, if so, how can he do it when the wholesalers are increasing their prices?

Mr. Prior

The Government would use the powers available to them if they had to. The House had ample opportunity to discuss this matter yesterday.

Mr. Molloy

Is the Minister aware that many housewives believe that his advice to shop around and look for alternatives is a complete abdication of his authority, and that he has caved in to the threats of the racketeers and is not worthy to hold the office that he now holds as long as those racketeers can say the sort of thing that they have been saying to a Minister of the Crown? Is he also aware that advertisements are appearing in the newspaper in respect of goods which are being hoarded, in order to blackmail housewives, and that the Minister is doing nothing about it?

Mr. Prior

Let me make the position absolutely clear. If the dockers go back to work the prices will come down.

Mr. Morris

On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.