HC Deb 08 June 1971 vol 818 cc844-7
4. Mr. Barnes

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what overall movement there has been in retail food prices since June, 1970, to the latest available date, as shown by the Food Index.

24. Mr. Carter

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food by how much in percentage terms food has increased in price since June, 1970.

Mr. Prior

Between 16th June, 1970, and 20th April, 1971, the latest date for which information is available, the Food Index rose by 8.5 per cent.

Mr. Barnes

Does not this figure mean that in the 10 months of this Government food prices have already gone up considerably more than in any full year under Labour? When can we expect this upward trend to be slowed down?

Mr. Prior

Hon. Members must realise that it will take some while to get prices under control and that it is the policies of the last Government which are partly to blame. The main problem is one of increasing wages and increasing world commodity prices. Until these show more signs of stability, we shall find it hard to keep prices stable.

Mr. Carter

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the electors of Broms-grove are indebted to him for his intervention in the by-election, when he confidently predicted that under this Government food prices would continue to rise? Does he not feel that now is the time to be honest with the House and admit that it is due to Government policy that food prices continue to rise?

Mr. Prior

Quite the contrary—it is due to the legacy we inherited, combined with the very high level of commodity prices now ruling in the world. The sooner we can get both under control the better.

Mr. Mackie

Surely the Government's policy is to give farmers their prices from the market. If farmers are to get such guaranteed prices, then prices to the consumer must rise. The right hon. Gentleman really must start to admit this and not keep repeating that he is going to get things under control. He cannot get things under control if he carries on present Government policy.

Mr. Prior

The increases which will result from the introduction of the interim levy scheme will amount, as I have said several times, to about one-half of 1 per cent. on the cost of food index over the following year.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Can the right hon. Gentleman say anything about the expected movement in the price of bread?

Mr. Prior

I see no reason for any increase in the price of bread resulting from the introduction of the levy policy.

18. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will state, respectively, the increases in prices per centum, calculated as to retail, for home-produced foods and imported foods between June, 1970, and June, 1971.

Mr. Prior

It is not possible, on the present basis of the Food Index, to identify separately the movements in prices of all home-produced and of all imported foods. Details for certain sub-groups of the Index, are, however, available, and I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the percentage increases for those sub-groups between 16th June, 1970, and 20th April, 1971, the latest date for which information is available.

Sir G. Nabarro

Is my right hon. Friend aware that an increase in food

Per cent.
Increase in the Index of Retail Food Prices between 16th June, 1970 and 20th April, 1971 of which— 8.5
(a) items the prices of which show significant seasonal variations* 2.8
(b) others 10.0
of which—
(i) items mainly home-produced for direct consumption 14.5
(ii) items mainly imported for direct consumption 7.5
(iii) items manufactured in the United Kingdom 9.3
of which—
(1) manufactured primarily from home-produced raw materials 11.1
(2) manufactured primarily from imported raw materials 8.3
*Home-killed lamb, fresh and smoked fish, eggs, fresh vegetables and fresh fruit are the items the prices of which show significant seasonal variations.

prices over the period amounting to about 8.5 per cent. is the cause of the gravest anxiety and that it is contrary to the undertakings given by our party at the last General Election?

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Sir G. Nabarro

Does my right hon. Friend know that South Worcestershire is contiguous to Bromsgrove and that I am feeling excessively uncomfortable—[Interruption.] What hopes has my right hon. Friend of arresting these considerable increases in food prices?

Mr. Prior

I am certain that as our policies are seen to come into operation they will then have—[Interruption.]—considerable effects on the cost of living.

Hon. Members


Sir G. Nabarro

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I could not hear the answer given by my right hon. Friend because of the noise from the party opposite. Could you ask the Opposition to behave themselves?

Mr. Prior

I am certain that our policies will succeed. My hon. Friend need have no doubts that we shall stand by the policies on which we have embarked, and in four years' time he will be returned for Worcestershire, South with an even bigger majority.

Mr. Kaufman

Returning to the supplementary question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris), would the right hon. Gentleman now give the House and country a categoric assurance that the retail price of the standard loaf of bread will not rise to 15p either this year or next?

Mr. Prior

All I would say is that there is absolutely no reason at all at the moment for the price of bread to rise.

Following is the information:

23. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are the reasons for the recent increases in the prices of beef and butter.

Mr. Prior

The recent increases in the prices of both beef and butter have resulted from a shortage of supplies on the world and United Kingdom markets.

Mr. Hamilton

Since the right hon. Gentleman has already admitted that butter prices have increased by no less than 40 per cent. in the last 10 months and that beef prices have increased about 50 per cent. in the same period, is he aware that if this rate of increase continues we shall be damned glad to get into the Common Market to get reduced prices for butter and beef?

Mr. Prior

That is a new point of view for the hon. Gentleman to put forward. Butter prices have gone up because of the drought conditions in New Zealand and Australia and shortages in other countries, particularly in the Common Market. As for beef, if only we produced more beef we would be less dependent on high-priced imports.