HC Deb 05 April 1971 vol 815 cc5-6
7. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a further statement regarding rising prices with regard to both retail and wholesale sectors, which concern his Department.

Mr. John Davies

I can only reiterate that the greatest single cause of price increases in recent times has been excessive wage settlements unmatched by increases in productivity. Only when wage increases are very considerably moderated can we expect to see more stable prices.

Mr. Molloy

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the country completely rejects that answer? Is he further aware that for the ordinary family this constant rise in prices is a grievous issue, especially for the aged and infirm? Does he agree that if he were to introduce a firm policy of price control it might act as a catalyst and help to solve our economic problems?

Mr. Davies

I am not of the opinion that the country rejects the point of view that I have expressed; on the contrary, considering the whole pattern of movement of rising prices and wages it is noticeable that the level of price increases has been consistently half that of wage increases. It would be folly to imagine that that does not have a repercussive effect. I realise the extremely troublesome and worrying effect of rising prices, especially on those who can ill-afford them and cannot defend themselves, but I commend that thought very much to those who exploit their power in order to obtain wage increases which feed their way into prices. I wholly reject the thought of price control as an effective means of trying to control this problem.

Mr. Evelyn King

May I ask a question that is constructive and nonparty? Has it been put to my right hon. Friend that out-of-town shopping precincts can save as much as 2½ per cent. on prices, and that these precincts are being delayed because of the great difficulty of obtaining planning consent for them? Will my right hon. Friend turn his mind to that issue?

Mr. Davies

I shall bring the point to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. It is worth re-emphasising that shopping around is a great advantage, although I realise how difficult it is for certain aged people.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the housewife is becoming sick and tired of this Government's hiding behind so-called inflationary wage increases? Is not he aware that his Government's decision to impose a meat tax for the first time on the housewife's family joint is an inflationary measure which can be laid entirely at the doorstep of this miserable Government?

Mr. Davies

I take note of the hon. Member's comment, without any approval of it.