HC Deb 08 July 1974 vol 876 cc940-1
21. Mr. Clemitson

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection by how much the food index rose compared to the previous year in January 1974 and in each month since then.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

In the year ending January 1974 the food index rose by 20.1 per cent. The comparable figure for February was 19.1 per cent. The annual rate of increase has since fallen to 18.1 per cent. in March, 17.7 per cent. in April and 17.2 per cent. in May.

Mr. Clemitson

Will my right hon. Friend comment on the reason for this favourable trend in food prices? Could it have anything to do with the policies which the Labour Government have been pursuing, particularly in regard to food subsidies?

Mrs. Williams

Yes, it has everything to do with that because the effect of food subsidies on the food index, so much scorned by Conservative Members, amounts to four points on that index. In addition, it is estimated that a figure of between 2 and 3 per cent. will flow from the cut in subsidies and the concentration on food commodities.

23. Mr. Marks

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what was the rate of increase in the price of food in each of the last six months.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

The percentage increase in the food index in each of the last six months—that is, beginning with December 1973—has been as follows. 1.7, 2.9, 0.9, 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3.

Mr. Marks

Do not these figures suggest that my right hon. Friend has done what the Conservative Government promised to do and has reduced the rise in food prices? Is she aware that despite the difficulties housewives will support her in doing something about food prices, whereas the Conservative Government not only did nothing to keep them down but aided and abetted in keeping them up?

Mrs. Williams

The hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) compared three months of Conservative Government with three months of Labour Government. A fairer comparison would have been the last three months of Conservative Government and the first three months of the present Government. The comparison shows that food prices increased by 5.7 per cent. in the last three months of Conservative Government and by 3.6 per cent. in the first three months of the Labour Government—less than two-thirds as much under Labour.

Mr. Channon

Has the right hon. Lady seen the Daily Mirror "Shopping Clock" and the Financial Times grocery price index, both of which last week showed for this month the biggest rises ever?

Mrs. Williams

The hon. Gentleman cannot quarrel with these official figures, accepted by all parties. The Grocer figures cite individual sectors and brands and are no guide to the true overall effect of the food index which I have just given. If the hon. Gentleman is questioning the authenticity of the official figures which I have just given to the House, he should say so.