HC Deb 19 January 1971 vol 809 cc707-8
20. Mr. Charles Morrison

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proportion of consumer expenditure was spent on food in 1964; and how this figure compares with 1970.

Mr. Prior

The proportion of total consumer expenditure which was spent on food for the 12 months to the end of September, 1964, was about 26½ per cent. compared with nearly 24 per cent. for the 12 months to the end of Septem- ber, 1970, the latest period for which information is available.

Mr. Morrison

I thank my right hon. Friend for that very interesting reply. Would not the proportion of expenditure on food have decreased further if more people had not spent more and more money on luxury foods?

Mr. Prior

Yes, Sir. Broadly speaking, as a nation grows richer—although over the past few years this nation has done so rather more slowly than usual—it spends a smaller proportion of its total outgoings on food. That is one of the reasons why it is possible at this stage to move over to the higher market price without its having a great effect on either consumption or people's standards of living.

Mr. Barnes

Does not the Minister agree that overall figures taking in the whole population are extremely misleading as to the family circumstances of many people with below-average incomes? Could he give us comparative figures for 1964 and 1970 for families with earnings below the national average wage?

Mr. Prior

I cannot give those figures without notice. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to put down a Question, or I will write to him about it. But the information available to me shows that old-age pensioners, for example, who form one of the sections of society which the hon. Gentleman mentioned, are tending to spend a lower proportion of their total expenditure on food.

Miss Hall

Can my right hon. Friend also give us figures for the amount of money spent on convenience foods in the period 1964–70? Although they are very useful, convenience foods are a luxury.

Mr. Prior

Again, I cannot give those figures without notice, but if my hon. Friend puts down a Question I will deal with it. The point surely is that, as a nation becomes more prosperous, it wants to spend less time on cooking and more time on other things, and, therefore, everything we can do to encourage convenience foods, we should do.

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