HC Deb 29 June 1971 vol 820 cc192-4
8. Mr. Skinner

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many letters relating to food price increases he has received since 9th June, 1971.

Mr. Prior

About 70.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that, irrespective of how many letters he receives, nobody expects the British housewife to treat either him or, for that matter, the Prime Minister seriously after the statement he made on 9th June? Can we assume that in future the Minister will be able to interpret some of the statements that President Pompidou makes, such as the one that he made at the weekend? For instance, can we expect the Minister to be able to tell us whether cheap New Zealand cheese will reach vanishing point; or was President Pompidou at his meeting with the British Prime Minister doing another electoral con job?

Mr. Prior

The one thing that all hon Members in all parts of the House will agree about is that nobody ever takes the hon. Gentleman seriously.

11. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what increase in retail food prices occurred between 1st July, 1970 and 30th June, 1971, or the latest convenient date, expressed per centum.

14. Mr. Willey

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food by how much the Food Index has risen from June, 1970, to the latest available date.

33. Mr. Golding

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what has been the increase in the index of retail prices between 19th June, 1970, and 18th June, 1971, or the last convenient date.

Mr. Prior

Between 16th June, 1970, and 18th May, 1971, the latest date for which information is available, the Food Index rose by 10.4 per cent.

Sir G. Nabarro

Will my right hon. Friend take the increase in food prices very seriously? Is he aware that a rise of 10.4 per cent. in those 12 months added to a continuing rate of 9.6 per cent. would give 20 per cent. over two years, and that two results, both damaging to the economy, will flow from that? The first is that the whole of the tax reductions in the last Budget will be offset. Second, there will be much greater pressure for increased wages, leading to an even faster rate of inflation than in the past 12 months.

Mr. Prior

Of course I take the matter seriously. We dealt with it very carefully in debate both last Tuesday and yesterday.

Mr. Willey

Is the Minister aware that he gave a shocking reply and that the only way in which he can end the discomfiture of his hon. Friend——

Sir G. Nabarro

I am not discomfited.

Mr. Willey

—and recover his self-respect is to resign?

Mr. Prior

The right hon. Gentleman may be interested to know that the last time a Conservative Government were elected after a Labour Government they had to face exactly the same problem.

Mr. Golding

Is the Minister aware that just two days before the General Election the Prime Minister said that the wage explosion was the only way in which people could protect their standard of living? Will the Government now recognise that wages are chasing prices, and not the other way round?

Mr. Prior

I might remind the hon. Gentleman that his leader said that one man's wage increase was another man's price increase.

Mr. Ridsdale

In view of the serious increase in retail prices of food, will my right hon. Friend continue to emphasise the Government's policy of helping those people who are worst hit by inflation and rising prices?

Mr. Prior

Certainly, I believe it to be a very important part of the Government's social policy.

Mr. Barnes

In view of the great emphasis the Prime Minister always places on the cut in S.E.T. when his policy on food price increases is criticised, can the right hon. Gentleman give us an up-to-date assessment of the impact that that cut will make on food prices? Has not the Prime Minister grossly exaggerated the extent to which the cut will be passed on to the housewife?

Mr. Prior

No, Sir. Only this morning I received a letter from the biggest personal service retail butchers in the country, with about 1,570 shops, saying that as soon as S.E.T. is reduced next week it will see that every single penny of the cut is passed back to the customer.

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