§ 19. Mr. Strang
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the latest estimate of the annual rate of inflation and 1117 what was the corresponding rate in June 1970.
§ Mr. Maurice Macmillan
As has already been announced, the index of retail prices in May, the latest available date was 9.8 per cent. higher than a year earlier. The corresponding figure for June, 1970, was 5.9 per cent.
§ Mr. Strang
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that it is six months since the Government claimed that they saw signs that inflation was falling off? In view of the Prime Minister's claim at the weekend, can the hon. Gentleman cite any more substantial evidence than existed six months ago to justify the Government's assertion that inflation is now reducing?
§ Mr. Macmillan
Despite the efforts of right hon. and hon. Members opposite to prevent the Government from operating directly on the prices of nationalised industries and their encouragement of inflationary wage settlements—yes, there are small signs that the situation is being contained.
§ Mr. Sheldon
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the great expectations of reductions in prices as a result of the cut in S.E.T. will be received with some derision by the British people? Will the hon. Gentleman draw the Chancellor's attention to what the hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. Hunt) pointed out—that he should have reduced purchase tax instead of S.E.T.? Will he consider the use of the regulator so that purchase tax can come down and at least some of the hopes engendered by the Chief Secretary in the people of this country will be realised, if only in part?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I am aware of the higher prices which have been imposed on people, but at least this Government have not increased the burden by putting up taxes. We have made substantial reductions in taxation and my right hon. Friend has indicated again today that he is looking at the economy but is awaiting the results of the survey and will be prepared to act accordingly.