§ 17. Mr. Ashley
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the Acts which give him power to influence food prices.
§ Mr. Prior
I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) on 20th April. I prescribe milk prices under the Emergency Laws (Re-enactments and Repeals) Act 1964.—[Vol. 815, c. 364–5,]
§ Mr. Ashley
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I appreciate his embarrasment and his failure to prevent food prices from rocketing? Therefore, does he feel that his party were wise to make such extravagant promises when they knew that they had no power to prevent such rises? Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to take power to prevent prices rising, or does he intend to continue with his chief alibi about housewives shopping around?
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes
In view of the fact that the Motion proposed yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Wallace) was agreed to by the House, will the Minister say when he will set up the organisation for consumer protection of which this House has approved?
§ Mr. Barnes
Is the Minister aware that there is still some confusion after yesterday's debate about the different reasons which he gives for the difficulty in bringing down food prices? Which of these is the most important: to bring down wages increases, to have more competition, or to have a stronger British agriculture? The Minister has given all these reasons at different times, and it is not clear on which he is relying most.
§ Dr. Summerskill
What advice does the right hon. Gentleman give to the housewife who has children, or who works outside the home, or who is disabled or retired—what can she do about shopping around?
§ 22. Mr. Peter Mills
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what were the respective contributions to the rise in the cost of food for the year 1970–71 of recent transport legislation, the cost of selective employment tax, the cost of increased fuel taxation, and increased wages.
§ Mr. Prior
It is not possible to give precise figures but it is clear that wages were the largest single cause of the rise in the cost of food in 1970–71 over the previous year. Higher costs arising from recent transport legislation and from the 1969 increase in selective employment tax also contributed to the rise. Fuel costs have also risen but the last change in fuel taxation was in April, 1969.
§ Mr. Mills
Does this not clearly show that the Labour Party is utterly condemned over the past four years, on the legislation it brought in and the increase in the cost of living? Would my right hon. Friend look carefully at the legislation to see what can be pruned and stop all of this Socialist nonsense that is no good for farming?
§ Mr. John Morris
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether the Government intend to strengthen their powers over prices in the private sector?
§ Mr. Barnes
Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that the reduction in food prices that will be possible by halving S.E.T. is less than half a new penny in the£?