HC Deb 08 July 1974 vol 876 cc932-3
11. Mr. Gorst

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what underlying rate of inflation her arrangements to stabilise prices are calculated to withstand.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

The Government inherited an unacceptable rate of inflation. The measures I am taking are designed to moderate it. I have never claimed more than this.

Mr. Gorst

Will the right hon. Lady say whether her Department is making additional contingency plans to deal with the rate of hyper-inflation which we now have, or does she intend to remain dormant like a political Sleeping Beauty awaiting the kiss of a General Election?

Mrs. Williams

I find the Opposition's attitude extraordinary. When I do anything, they say that it is either false, misleading or humbug. When I do nothing, they say that I am sleeping, like a version of the Sleeping Beauty. The hon. Gentleman had better make up his mind whether he wants me to take action or whether he does not. The Government's view is that we should take action wherever we can. I have already described to the House the actions we propose to take when the Prices Bill becomes law, something which would have happened rather quicker if we had had the full co-operation of the Opposition.

Mr. Ridsdale

In view of the fall in commodity prices, would not the right hon. Lady be better able to help widows and pensioners if she pressed the Chancellor of the Exchequer for tax reductions and better able to help people on small incomes if she pressed the Secretary of State for the Environment to make the water rate rebatable?

Mrs. Williams

The hon. Gentleman has certainly kept me busy with requests to my colleagues. I suggest that he might like to put the questions direct to them.

Mr. Channon

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the Opposition in no way obstructed the passage of the Prices Bill? We came to an agreement with the right hon. Lady and we stuck to it. The date was met on every occasion. It is unfair and misleading for her to suggest that the Opposition delayed the passage of the Bill. We ask her to do something about prices which are rising now at a far faster rate than when she came into office.

Mrs. Williams

The hon. Gentleman is aware that there are considerable distinctions between the ways in which prices are rising and that there are factors such as the impact of oil prices on the cost of travel and transport which it is difficult to control. The hon. Gentleman's Conservative Government left an extremely dangerous heritage, not least in respect of vast deficits in the nationalised industries which they said they would have had to look at had they stayed in government any longer.