HC Deb 02 March 1972 vol 832 cc733-4
19. Mr. Skeet

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what has been the rate of increase in retail prices in the period since July, 1971; and how this compares with the rate of increase during the same period up to July, 1971.

Mr. Bryan

The General Index of Retail Prices rose by 2.4 per cent. between July, 1971, and January, 1972, compared with 5.6 per cent. between January, 1971, and July, 1971.

Mr. Skeet

I thank my hon. Friend for giving information about that trend, which must indicate a great triumph in the battle against inflation. Will he recognise this as a tribute to the C.B.I. initiative? Has he any suggestion about what should follow when that policy lapses in July?

Mr. Bryan

I would pay tribute to the C.B.I. and its initiative. We are in touch with the C.B.I. about the future, though of course I cannot foretell what will happen. This is a battle on a number of fronts and the C.B.I. has done its bit. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has done his bit by reducing taxation and, probably most of all, success is due to our policy of de-escalation on the wages front.

Mr. Bob Brown

If an increase in retail prices of 2.4 per cent. is a triumph, God help us if the Government have any defeats! Does the Minister realise that there are many people who are hard pressed to make ends meet as a result of the increase in prices of 2.4 per cent.? It is no comfort to such people to tell them "Because of our policies you are only having half as hard a job as you had in the previous few months".

Mr. Bryan

The Government are far from complacent about the present situation, but we are conscious that we have changed the trend from the disastrous situation brought forward from the Labour Government. Among hopeful signs was the fact that the trend over the six-month period between February, and August, 1971, was 5.1 per cent. which gradually went down to 2.5 per cent. from June to December. Another satisfactory trend is to be seen in the pattern of wholesale prices. In the last three months of 1971 this has increased by just over½ per cent. This also is a very satisfactory trend.

Mr. Kaufman

May we be spared any more of this collusive complacency between the Government and their back benches? Is it not a fact that according to The Grocer magazine—which ought to be well known to the Treasury Bench —retail food prices are still rising at a rate of 9.5 per cent. a year, sugar at the rate of 14 per cent. and cheese at the rate of 12 per cent.? Instead of being so complacent about the situation, what do the Government intend to do about it?

Mr. Bryan

I do not know what particular prices the hon. Gentleman is taking, but if he looks at the general rise in the cost of living he will see that it has been notably slowed down and that people are grateful for it.

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