HC Deb 26 January 1971 vol 810 cc318-20
Q10. Mr. Marks

asked the Prime Minister if the statement by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food broadcast on independent television on 8th December, 1970, on the cost of living represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Q11. Mr. David Watkins

asked the Prime Minister if the broadcast statement made by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, on prices on 8th December, 1970, on independent television news, represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary gave on my behalf to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) and the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) on 19th January.—[Vol. 809, c. 263.]

Mr. Marks

That Answer was "Yes". Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the statement quoted the Minister as saying that it would take a whole Parliament to get prices stable again? In view of his other famous remarks about prices, will the right hon. Gentleman make a fresh start on prices and say what his Government have done about price rises in the last seven months and what they propose to do about them in the next 12, particularly in the private sector?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend was referring to the manifesto and said that this was a programme for a Parliament; and that has never been questioned by any hon. Gentleman opposite.

Mr. Watkins

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his right hon. Friend's statement was a complete contradiction of his own statement, made two days before the General Election? Are these serious divisions of opinion among Members of the Government the reason why the Government have no effective policies to reduce prices?

The Prime Minister

Neither of the statements made by the hon. Gentleman represents the facts.

Mr. Peter Mills

Does my right hon. Friend agree that even now the British consumer is still having some of the cheapest and finest food in the world and that, as a result, agriculture should have a fair return for what it does for the nation?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is important that agriculture should get a fair return for its labour and investment and this is the object of our agricultural policy.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Does the reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. David Watkins) mean that the right hon. Gentleman still seeks to deny what he said on 16th June, as he has once tried to deny it in this House—that he would take action "at a stroke" to deal with this question? Does he still seek to deny that in the same statement he said that he would immediately break into the prices-wage spiral to reduce prices and unemployment? Did he use those phrases, does he stand by them and how can he relate that to talking about taking action over a whole Parliament?

The Prime Minister

If the right hon. Gentleman will study the two statements quoted he will find that they are not incompatible.

Sir G. Nabarro

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that earlier in the proceedings today it was revealed that the rate of inflation since 18th June last has amounted to about 3⅓ per cent. for eight months or 5 per cent. per annum? Would he agree that the concerted efforts of Her Majesty's Government are flattening out the upward course of prices? Will he persist vigorously in all of these policies?

The Prime Minister

We shall certainly persist most vigorously.

Mr. William Hamilton

Is it not deliberate policy of Her Majesty's Government to put up food prices and to put up the rents of private and public house tenants? Does he not agree that decimalisation, to be introduced in a few weeks, will add a further increase to the cost of living? What will he do about rents and food prices and the escalation consequent on decimalisation?

The Prime Minister

The specific question of the agricultural policy and food prices was dealt with fully at the election and criticised by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. As far as I know we made no reference to public house prices. [Laughter.] If the hon. Gentleman merely meant the specific case of rents he had better look at the whole of the housing policy, which was also put before the electorate at the election.

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