HC Deb 12 April 1976 vol 909 cc906-7
17. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what is her assessment of the effect of the continued decline of the £ sterling on domestic retail prices of food, clothing and other essential items which have a high import content.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Sterling depreciation affects domestic prices differently depending on import content. It has been estimated, however, that a 5 per cent. depreciation leads to a 1 per cent. to 1½ per cent. increase in the Retail Price Index over a period of about one year.

Mr. Stonehouse

Is not the Secretary of State very concerned about the continued depreciation of sterling? As she is probably aware, there has been a decrease of over 10 per cent. in the value of sterling against most other currencies in just the last month. How soon will it be before that reflects itself in higher prices in this country?

Mrs. Shirley Williams

I have already given an indication of the answer to the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's question. As regards the first part of the question, any responsible person must be concerned about sterling depreciation. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the only way to deal with this is by a direct frontal attack on inflation of the type that the Government are mounting.

Mr. Mike Thomas

As on this Question and others my right hon. Friend has strayed well into the area of Treasury matters, will she say when she will detail her responsibilities as Paymaster-General and whether she will answer Questions relating to them on Prices and Consumer Protection days or join the Treasury team for Treasury Question Time?

Mrs. Shirley Williams

My hon. Friend will appreciate that I have endeavoured to be helpful, and a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House have carefully put into their original Questions references to domestic prices. It is a little difficult to transfer all these Questions without seeming to be singularly unhelpful to the House. However, I take my hon. Friend's point. I am not an additional wheel to the Treasury team. It does not need one.

Mr. Crawford

Does the Secretary of State agree with her right hon. Friend the former Paymaster-General, now Secretary of State for Trade, who in Glasgow a month or so ago said that a strong currency in the form of a Scottish pound was something to be avoided?

Mrs. Shirley Williams

I think that my answering a question on the Scottish pound is also something to be avoided.