HC Deb 20 May 1974 vol 874 cc6-7
5. Mr. Gorst

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection how many increases in prices of individual items of food have been recorded between 5th March and the latest available date.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

In mid-March the food index was 1.1 per cent. higher than in February. The comparable information for April is not yet available. However, so far as the main foodstuffs are concerned, my information is that the prices of home-killed lamb and of most fresh fruit and vegetables have shown seasonal increases. The price of cheese also rose a little before the subsidy was introduced.

Mr. Gorst

Does not the right hon. Lady realise that, for all her machine-gun firing of statistics, she cannot hide the fact that we also have some information? Is she aware that about 2,388 food prices have risen since 5th March— that the latest figures show some 14 per cent. or more of these prices to have risen—and that consequently her attempts at window-dressing to provide indiscriminate subsidies are of no value whatever to the community?

Mrs. Williams

I think that the hon. Gentleman would be unwise to pursue that. The number of price increases in the corresponding period under his own Government was greater and the number of price reductions fewer.

Mr. Arnold Shaw

Accepting that there have been some increases in retail prices, may I ask what view my right hon. Friend takes of the possible movement in wholesale prices in the very near future?

Mrs. Williams

The present position regarding wholesale food prices is that the most recent index has shown an encouraging 5 per cent. fall in wholesale food price inputs. Although I do not believe that all the increases of the past have yet worked their way through the trade, it is none the less encouraging that there is this promising trend.