HC Deb 14 June 1976 vol 913 cc205-38

12.26 a.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection (Mr. Robert Maclennan)

I beg to move That the Food Subsidies (Increase of Financial Limit) Order 1976, a draft of which was laid before this House on 14th May, be approved. The Order before the House tonight raises no new issue of principle. Therefore, I need not greatly detain the House.

Section 1(6) of the Prices Act 1974, as amended by Section 1(1) of the Prices Act 1975, limits expenditure on food subsidies paid under the Prices Acts to £1,200 million. However, Section 1(3) of the 1975 Act provides that this ceiling may be raised to a maximum of £1,700 million by an Order made with the approval of a resolution of this House. The situation envisaged by Parliament when the 1975 Act was being considered has come about and it is necessary to bring forward this Order to enable the food subsidies to continue to be paid.

Up to the end of May expenditure under the Prices Acts amounted to £1,072 million, and I expect that the total will reach the existing ceiling of £1,200 million within the next few weeks. The purpose of the Order, therefore, is to increase the limit to £1,700 million in order to enable the payment of food subsidies to continue for the rest of this financial year and, indeed, into the subsequent financial year.

I need not hold up the debate which I imagine will follow with a detailed repetition of the reasons which, in the Government's view, justify a food subsidy programme. We have fully debated this issue of principle in the past. I should simply like to recall briefly that at the time when we took office, early in 1974, food prices were rising sharply and there was a widespread fear among many pensioners and others on low incomes, who inevitably spend a substantial proportion of their income on the necessities of life, that their modest standard of living was under threat.

Unfortunately, selective schemes of social assistance have a poor record of take-up and effective non-selective schemes take time to prepare. We therefore developed the food subsidies pro- gramme in order to provide quickly some measure of protection for the poorer members of our community from the worst effects of severe inflation. We developed the programme which had been begun by the Conservative Government by the introduction of substantial subsidies on milk and butter.

We have always made it clear that subsidies were intended as an interim, but important, measure. I have considerable sympathy with those of my hon. Friends who take the view that these subsidies should be maintained or even increased. Nevertheless the rate of inflation is moderating, and we have in this period made substantial progress in the social field. We can look forward to further advances on both fronts, although we have still a hard haul to bring down the rate of inflation to that of our competitors overseas, and progress in the social field cannot run too far ahead of improvements in the economy generally.

Food subsidies, therefore, have a substantial part to play in maintaining the standard of living of the less-well-off members of our community—a substantial, albeit a declining, cointribution which will have to continue for some time to come. The Government's plans are set out in the White Paper on public expenditure—

Mr. Tony Newton (Braintree)

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves his analysis of the reasons why the Government cannot make enough social progress, will he tell us what fraction of the money he seeks tonight would have paid for the Child Benefit Scheme and have given far more help to the less-well-off members of the community?

Mr. Maclennan

My hon. Friend who dealt with the Child Benefit Scheme made plain that it was not public expenditure considerations alone which led to the Government's plans being brought forward. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman's comments are not wholly germane.

In the circumstances I have described, the Government must provide for the continuation of food subsidies, and the passage of the Order tonight is therefore imperative. It is right to take this action now to raise the limit on expenditure to the maximum permitted under existing legislation. I accordingly commend the Order to the House.

12.32 a.m.

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim (Gloucester)

In opposing the Order, which seeks to make available to the Government a further £500 million to spend on food subsidies—the final £500 million under the Prices Act 1975—we are not being inconsistent with the amendment we moved on 12th March 1975 during the Report stage of the Prices Bill 1975 to peg Government spending on food subsidies at £1,000 million. That would have allowed for £485 million to be spent over three years, or whatever period the Government chose to phase out food subsidies altogether.

Since rejecting our amendment, the Government have already spent another £550 million in just over one year, according to the figures given by the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State and according to the figures in the Public Expenditure White Paper. It would therefore not be inconsistent if we were to reject the Order and say that no further money should be made available.

However, we have always accepted—as we did during the debate on the Prices Bill in 1975—that we cannot phase out food subsidies overnight and that they cannot be phased out without considerable expense and some trauma. We warned of that when food subsidies were first announced, and we repeat that warning tonight.

In moving our amendment last year we proposed a three-year phasing-out period which was approved by the Food and Drink Industries Council. The first year of that phasing-out period has already been completed, albeit totally inadequately. We propose that if the Government produce a new Order—to replace this one—providing for a further £300 million we would not oppose it, because that amount should be sufficient—and considerably more than we proposed in our amendment last year—to complete the phasing-out process over the next two years. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) laughs, but that means a saving of considerably more than the difference between £300 million and £500 million.

Mr. Mike Thomas (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)

I was laughing not at the sums of money but at the way the hon. Lady is managing yet again to look both ways.

Mrs. Oppenheim

Unfortunately, under the procedures of the House I am forced to face the Labour Party, which is not always a pleasant prospect.

When account has been taken of the cuts already made in the cheese and butter subsidies and the saving we would be proposing in limiting the remaining subsidy money available to £300 million, the total saving would be about £700 million, which is, by coincidence, not much more than the Bank of England is reputed to have paid out in support of sterling this week alone. If the Government had accepted our amendment in the first place in 1975, less money would have had to be spent and the phasing-out programme could have been completed already. It is the Government who are responsible both for the delay and for the extra expenditure. It would be quite superfluous, as the Under-Secretary said, and particularly at this time of night, to rehearse all over again the arguments we had and the case we proved over and over again against the present Government's programme of food subsidies.

At the same time it would be wrong not to discuss the effect that our rejection of the Order and the substitution of an Order allowing £300 million expenditure on food subsidies would have on families struggling against the worst inflation we have ever known in this country. So far, food subsidies have saved about 2.5 per cent. on the Retail Price Index since they were first introduced, but they have cost over £1,000 million, and during that period prices have risen by over 50 per cent. So they have hardly made much impression despite that astronomical cost. At the same time as food subsidies have saved 2.5 per cent. on the RPI, the fall in the value of the pound, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's own calculations, has added about 7 per cent. to the RPI by the time the fall to date has worked through.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)

May I ask the hon. Lady a serious question? Now that the Opposition have said that it is their policy to try to work with the trade unions, has the hon. Lady or anyone on the Conservative Front Bench discussed this with the trade unions to see what their views are before she comes here?

Mrs. Oppenheim

I do not think we are committed in any way to discuss with the trade unions the way in which we may react to the Government's policies at this moment in time. [Hon. Members: "Oh."] But of course the TUC will be as concerned as every right hon. and hon. Member by the fact that the tall in the value of sterling has put 7 per cent. on the RPI, and the TUC will want to seek, in the way every right hon. Member should want to seek, to strengthen sterling to prevent its erosion and the effect that this has on inflation in this country.

It follows that any minimal benefit that food subsidies may have had has been more than cancelled out by expenditure on them and by the effect which that has had on confidence in the pound. In other words, if food subsidies were abolished tomorrow, even if that were technically possible, which it is not, that news itself might boost sterling so that the effect on the RPI of that abolition would be totally negatived.

In case some Labour Members think that I am overstating the importance of the relationship between the value of the pound and current levels of Government spending, and between the public sector borrowing requirement and inflation, I shall reinforce my argument by quoting from a speech I came across the other day. Because I am in a generous mood tonight, and despite the hour, I shall offer a prize to any hon. Member opposite—[Hon Members: "Name it."] Half a pint of cider. I shall offer a prize to any hon. Member who can identify the author of this speech.

The speaker said: The truth is beginning to emerge about prices … world shortages are one factor in price inflation, but only one. Equally important is the fall … in the value of the pound compared to other currencies. The Government floated the pound, and then did nothing to help it swim. Its policies of borrowing thousands of millions of pounds to finance its expenditure have weakened our vulnerable currency. In short, the Government has financed through inflation, hitting the poor much more than the rich, what it lacked the guts to finance through taxation. Who said that? No one has won the prize. The speaker was none other than the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection during the February 1974 election campaign, speaking at Dudley on 14th February. She continued: A third factor in rising prices is the commodity markets. Frightened of inflation, investors put their money into physical assets … raw materials. The speculators buy forward … and in doing so, drive up prices. … It can be controlled, and it should be. The right hon. Lady went on to talk about the fourth factor being the fact that the Price Commission's controls were not on cash profit margins. She is not here, and I regret that I have to quote in her absence. She complained about the fact that after four years of Conservative Government the pound had fallen by 20 per cent. In just over two years of Labour Government it has fallen by just over 30 per cent. The right hon. Lady complained of Government borrowing to finance public expenditure. It was then, after four years of Conservative Government, £4,500 million; it is now £14,000 million. The public sector borrowing requirement which she also complained about was £4,500 million; it is now £11,000 million.

Mr. Maclennan

Is the hon. Lady using the argument that the decline in the value of sterling has had an effect on the Retail Price Index in support of her case for diminishing food subsidies?

Mrs. Oppenheim

Not at all. I am stating a case for diminishing the Government's public expenditure and their level of borrowing. The Order is about Government expenditure—£500 million.

The right hon. Lady also spoke of the need for cash profit margins to be controlled under the Price Code, and I have not noticed that she has done anything about that either. That is not to say that I am advocating it. Did she really believe all the things she said on that occasion, or was this just another example of the double standards of this Government? Does she say one thing in Opposition and then renounce it when in Government?

I quoted from the right hon. Lady's speech not only to reinforce what I was saying about the relationship between the level of Government spending and borrowing, the value of the pound and inflation, but also to illustrate once and for all the dishonest duplicity which brought this Government to power in 1974, of which food subsidies were but a small part.

In that same speech, the right hon. Lady spoke of the "three-bob loaf" and the "near bob egg"—I am not sure why she put it in those terms since we had then had the decimal system for nearly three years. She may find it ironic, however, to reflect that the "three-bob loaf" which she subsidises is now 18p but that the "near bob egg" which she has left to market forces is now 3½p. The whole food subsidy programme was part of that infamous period of connivance and delusion.

How earnestly we were told that food subsidies were aimed at the poorer families and pensioners and that, although more of the subsidies was going to the better-off, they were paying in taxes to pay for them very much more than they were getting. What has happened? That has proved to be yet another of this Government's cheats, because the value of food subsidies is now worth about 16½p per person per week to the average family while, to pay for them, in direct taxes, which are paid by everyone, have gone up by more than 50p per person per week and for the poor families by about 30p per person per week. That is a great deal more than they are getting from food subsidies—some bargain for poorer families and pensioners. If the Minister questions that figure, I suggest that he refers to the welter of conflicting parliamentary replies from the Treasury which provide the foundation for that calculation.

If the Government had really wanted to help the poor and the pensioners, as they pretend, they could, for a fraction of the cost of food subsidies, have introduced family allowances for the first child immediately, or, as The Guardian of 4th June said, the 88 million spent last year on subsidies on butter—90 per cent. of which was imported—was seven times as much as spending on FIS. For half of what they propose to spend on food subsidies this year they could raise family allowances by one-third, which would put money into the pockets of the families that need it.

It is no wonder that the Secretary of State is not here tonight and has sent the Under-Secretary sneaking in at 12.45 a.m. to ask for another £500 million for this disreputable, cruel and wildly extravagant piece of political sophistry.

If the Government want to take the Order away tonight and return with another, giving a final £300 million for subsidies, we would not oppose it. That would mean that in the current year they would have £200 million to spend instead of the £336 million that they propose, and £100 million next year against the £216 million that they are planning to spend.

The effect of that would be to reduce food subsidies by 7.p per person per week to the average family this year, 4p next year and another 4p the year after. The Secretary of State has already reduced the value of subsidies by 5.p per person per week, so the cuts that we are suggesting would be little more than those she has already made this year, but less next year and the year after, while saving about £700 million on the present programme. There would be no difficulty in substituting another Order, as the Department has already demonstrated. The maximum price Orders have already been altered seven times for butter, seven times for bread, six times for cheese, twice for flour and twice for tea. A total of 24 new Orders have been introduced because of price increases.

We are not insensitive to the effect of the withdrawal of even such a comparatively small sum of money from poorer families and pensioners, but there is no alternative and the Government are to blame for seeking to destroy and disguise reality.

We warned that food subsidies would be difficult to phase out. But the effect of the withdrawal of subsidies that we are proposing is as nothing compared with the terrible rate of inflation imposed on people by the Government over the last two years. How can the Government claim to be sensitive about pensioners and the poor when they have decided to do pensioners out of the full increase that they had expected and to cheat on the family benefits scheme?

The Public Expenditure White Paper shows that the Government are willing to contemplate cut-backs in proposed programmes in forthcoming years in education, social welfare and health, and they are likely to be forced to impose greater cuts as soon as our creditors take over, as they surely will. How can the Government hope that the people will accept the need to postpone repairing schools or to defer the building of badly-needed new hospitals and other projects when they subject us to the spectacle of such profligate expenditure as is involved in food subsidies?

The Prime Minister boasts of achieving a historical consensus. But there can be no popular support for the policy of widespread retrenchment which is now unavoidable unless the Government introduce sensible and just priorities which they have manifestly failed to do. They embarked on this policy when we were not living as wildly beyond our means as we are today. There was little justification for it then on either social or economic grounds, and there can be none today.

12.50 a.m.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts (Cannock)

I shall not follow the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Oppenheim), who has been suddenly converted to all sorts of desirable social objectives, into her jungle of meaningless statistics.

I welcome the way in which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary introduced the Order, particularly his statement that he agreed with many of us that there was a need not only to maintain the level of subsidies but possibly to extend them in certain directions. Our concern is about whether the amount here—I realise that it comes from the 1975 Act —is adequate to maintain the type of subsidies that we should wish. We have already seen this month a fall in the help for the average family with two adults and two children from 70p to 65p a week. Unlike the hon. Lady, I believe that that is a retrograde step, because we should help families in every way possible.

With the recent butter price increases we have taken £34 million out of the pockets of poor people and stuffed it into the pockets of the richest taxpayers. There are obvious arguments, which are widely accepted on this side of the House, for the maintenance of those subsidies. The first is the nutritional one. There is considerable evidence that whenever prices rise there is a tendency among poorer families to move away from nutritional foods.

Subsidies are aimed particularly at a range of nutritional foods for which there is an inelastic demand. There is an inflationary argument. As was seen at the time of the thresholds, there is no doubt that these subsidies are very effective in cutting down the rate of inflation. No hon. Member could disagree with the need to curb inflation in every way possible. However green the hon. Lady may be, this Government have an excellent record in their progress towards curbing inflation.

The subsidies have a useful stabilising effect. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food knows full well that, above all, the agricultural community wants stability in the prices of its products. The subsidies have made a contribution in that direction also.

The main reason, however, why my hon. Friends and I support this form of subsidies is that they have a useful redistributive effect. That is why they are so hated on the Opposition Benches. For the very poor, they provide a benefit of £11 to £13 a year to the individual.

Where does the money come from? These subsidies have always been part of a package in which the money has been taken out of the pockets of the richer sections of the community. [Interruption.] Why are Conservative Members so much against it if it is not fact? The statistics show that £200 million of the money found to meet these subsidies comes from those earning incomes of over £70 a week. There is no question that the subsidies have a useful redistributive effect. That is why, the Opposition hate them. We can ignore all the Opposition's cant about alternative benefits. These benefits certainly never appear when a Tory Government are in power.

Our short experience of this subsidy has been—[An HON. MEMBER: "Disgusting."] It may be disgusting from that hon. Gentleman's point of view, but subsidies provide significant help to the poor person. These subsidies are a useful Socialist redistributive tool—a tool that should be sharpened and strengthened.

12.56 a.m.

Mr. Michael Neubert (Romford)

After that interlude of Celtic fervour, let us pause to reflect on the facts and try to keep to the point.

For some of us who found the statistics of my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Oppenheim) amply meaningful, let me remind Labour Members of other statistics. One statistic which they should be asked to bear in mind is that during the short life of this Labour Government inflation has been at a level of 50.9 per cent. The annual rate of inflation rose at its highest peak last August to 26.9 per cent.—an unholy and unheard—of rate of inflation in this country, a rate of inflation worthy of any South American banana republic. That happened under a Labour Government. Even now, the annual rate of inflation is running at 18.9 per cent.

Hon. Members will notice the recurrence of the 0.9 per cent. figure. That is important because it is estimated that food subsidies have an effect on the Retail Price Index of 0.9 per cent. Last year the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection spoke about cutting the top off the mountain.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is old enough to remember, as I am, the situation in the last war. Did not all political parties insist on having food subsidies in the war because it was thought to be a fairer means of distributing food and of keeping down prices?

Mr. Neubert

It is perhaps an adequate commentary on the achievements of the present Labour Government that some of their supporters are forced back to quoting the Second World War, involving a period of restraint and all the rest of it.

It has been said that the money for subsidies comes from wealthy citizens in the United Kingdom. The amount of money dealt with in the Order is £500 million. That amounts to two weeks' borrowing abroad by the present Government. In other words, we are sustaining these subsidies by virtue of borrowings from our friends abroad.

It is a matter of great concern to those of us who follow these debates to see such hesitation and diffidence in pursuing the Government's programme of phas- ing out subsidies. We have had this time and again recently. Just when we saw a glimmer of light, when we thought the Government were about to act in accordance with their undertaking to phase out subsidies, they recoiled from the prospect. Perhaps they were dissuaded from doing so.

In the Budget of April 1975 it was said that food subsidies would be cut by £150 million and housing subsidies by about half that amount. By July, less than three months later, food subsidies were increased to 70 per cent. and housing subsidies were increased to keep council house rents down. Later last year we had proposals to reduce food subsidies in the shape of school meals. School meal prices were to rise from 15p to 20p. When it is realised that the subsidy on school meals costs the taxpayer £362 million, representing a subsidy of 64 per cent. one would think that the phasing out of the subsidy was long overdue.

Before anyone rises in indignation from the Labour Benches to tell me of those who cannot afford even the price of school meals and of those for whom a school meal is the only good meal they have each day, let me say that the figure I have given does not take account of free meals supplied to the children who need them. If we take free meals into account, the subsidy rises to 71 per cent. As a result of the further negotiations with the TUC, however, that programme is also to be put into abeyance and school meal charges are not to be increased.

We were promised by the Secretary of State that these indiscriminate food subsidies—which lavish an 11p per lb. subsidy on butter for business men gorging themselves on business lunches, which undercut the price of cheese and which bring great joy to the cheese producers of the EEC—would give way, if not soon, at least in the fullness of time, to much more discriminating, selective and sophisticated schemes, such as that proposed in the Child Benefit Scheme. All that is now to be abandoned. Why? It is not for reasons of social justice but because it is felt that this would be to transfer money to the mother, to the purse of the person who might provide for these poorest families.

Instead we have a scheme introduced which, in the opinion of the Child Poverty Action Group, will make many of the poorest families worse off, not better off. If aid is to be given, we ask that it be given selectively to the families which need it most. This the Government are failing to do. That is why we oppose food subsidies as an inadequate means of helping those who need help.

For the Under-Secretary to be sent along here tonight to propose an expenditure of £500 million, a large sum of money, is some indication that the Government are losing their own case. They lack confidence and their lobster quadrille impresses no one. We should be thankful that at least lobster is not yet subsidised. That may come too. If we can at least have an assurance that this will be the last of such Orders at this time of night, or at any other time, we may gain some hope. In the meantime, we would do well to oppose the Order and help the Government to help themselves.

1.4 a.m.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)

The method put forward by the Government tonight is a method of pricing and social support for which I have argued for a long time, and I welcome the fact that it is being introduced. I was surprised by what the hon. Members for Gloucester (Mrs. Oppenheim) and Romford (Mr. Neubert) had to say. They were willing to wound but afraid to strike. The Conservatives have this permanent fear of being exposed as the party of the rich. I sometimes wish that they would face up to it.

Why have food subsidies? One of the reasons has to do with the abnormally rapid rise in food prices following our entry into the Common Market. Because of the rapid and unwarranted rise after our entry—for which Conservative Members are responsible because they negotiated the initial settlement—it is right for the Government to cushion the effects, particularly as they are felt by the poorer sections in our society. The nonsense that we hear about the need for selective support betrays the social attitude of the Tories. They are hankering after the means-tested society. It is as simple as that.

The advantage of food subsidies is simple. They are non-discriminatory support. That is why we support them. We hear nonsense from the Tories about business men's lunches, but, if business men would pay for their lunches a little more often instead of taking the price of their meals as one of the perks of the businesses for which they work, price increases would not be so great.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

The hon. Gentleman and many of his right hon and hon. Friends talk about the means test, but under this Government everyone who is on supplementary benefit has to undergo the means test.

Mr. Buchan

Yes, and my right hon. and hon. Friends bitterly regret that pensions are not sufficient to remove the requirement for supplementary benefit. The difference between the two major parties is that the Tories wish to create a supplementary benefit society while we wish to remove the needs for supplementary benefit.

The truth is that the poor pay more as consumers. They pay more in absolute terms because in general they have to buy in smaller quantities. They often buy on a daily or weekly basis. As Conservative Members should know, that is a much more expensive way of buying. Secondly, it is relatively more costly for the poor because a larger proportion of a poor person's income is spent on food than is spent as a proportion by Tory Members. Both absolutely and relatively, the poor pay more. That is particularly important as regards food, because the easiest thing to cut down on when there is a squeeze is food. People have to keep the house going and a number of other things, but as soon as pressure is brought to bear on a person's income it is food that he or she finds easiest to cut. We should be asking not for the phasing out of food subsidies but for an increasing level of subsidies.

I turn to the non-discriminatory aspect of subsidies. The subsidy is a method of redistribution that avoids all the obloquy of a selective structure. Let us remember the shame that free dinners bring to families. Let us remember the shame that is felt about receiving supplementary benefit. Every child and every parent who has to go through the selective structure feels an acute sense of shame.

The redistributive element of the nondiscriminatory subsidy favours the poorer sections of the community. That is because a high proportion of their money is spent on food. The subsidy is a useful social weapon that avoids the bad element of selective support. It is especially effective for the poorer sections of society. That is why we should argue for a higher level of food subsidy. That would be of direct support to old people and poorer families, and it would not bring in the means test aspect.

Subsidies should be supported and increased because they are a useful form of price control and agricultural support. They should be written much more strongly into our social consciousness, but we deal with these matters in a negative way. We have attempted price control, but we should be much more positive towards food subsidies. Let us not forget that in 1945 the aim was to make a free school dinner available for every child. We have nowhere approached that.

Therefore, we want to expose the hypocrisy of the Opposition and to remind the Government that they have secured a deal with the trade unions in the past. All honour to the trade unions for that. Whether one agrees with the policy is another question, but I sometimes wish that the Opposition would recognise the contribution and the sacrifice made by the trade union movement in dealing with the problem of inflation. I wish that some of the people round the business lunches that we have heard about had made the same contribution as the trade union movement in accepting a pay policy. But one thing is certain. There will be no pay policy if we cut into such matters as food subsidies. If we want the kind of pay policy which will help in the battle against inflation, the right proposal is to achieve a higher level of food subsidies rather than a lower level.

The trade union movement is not a selfish organisation. It has taken a lead in fighting for increased pensions for old people. It recognises the problems of poor families, quite apart from reflecting its own individual trade union members, and it has been defensive for society over the past few difficult years.

Therefore, I welcome this increase. I hope that the Government will look again at the level and at the linking, which has been lacking, between this and an intelligent food and agricultural policy for our country.

1.11 a.m.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

The hon. Member for Renfrew-shire. West (Mr. Buchan) gave the impression that there was a cleavage between the two sides of the House about whether we supported food subsidies. It is clear from the speeches of both Front Bench spokesmen that that is not the issue between the parties officially. The only issue is whether subsidies should be phased out rather more speedily than the Government propose.

I was disappointed that the Minister did not try to justify the subsidies in food price terms or even in social terms. I hope that before the debate ends he will answer a few questions about how things are going.

I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Oppenheim) emphasise in a sympathetic manner the way in which rising food prices are causing immense hardship. Having listened to the Minister tonight, I was surprised to re-read an answer I received from him on 27th May. I asked him how much food prices had gone up in the 18 months before the October 1974 General Election and how much they had gone up since. His Answer conflicted with what he said tonight.

The information which I was given was that seasonal foodstuffs had risen 14 per cent. in price in the 18 months before the election and 81 per cent. since. That is a very dramatic increase. Non-seasonal foods went up by 28 per cent. in price in the 18 months before the election and by 34 per cent. since then. So the Minister was wrong in saying that this Government brought in food subsidies because prices were rising dangerously before the 1974 election. On the basis of his own figures, they has risen a great deal more since then.

I hope we shall have an indication from the Minister of how he sees food prices going over the next year. All the information that I can gather from those of my farming friends who are still my friends and from other sources is that food prices will rocket over the next year. If we take together the effect of inflation, the effect of our transition to the Common Market, which has been a lot more than the famous 1 per cent. about which we used to be told, and the effects of the green pound, there is no doubt that food prices will rise substantially in the next year.

As the Minister said, and as the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West repeated, poor people will be harmed if we do away with part of the subsidies. But has any attempt been made to discover whether rising food prices have resulted in a change in the diet of the average family? I am not thinking of working-class, middle-class or upper-class families. I am thinking of changes in people's diets. If a survey were carried out, I think we should see that there has been a dramatic change. We see evidence of it in our local shops. Only last week I was at the butcher's when a lady wanted to buy five lamb chops. She was told that they were 74p each. She said she could not afford to buy them, and she bought some wretched cold meat instead.

I am sure that that is happening throughout the country. People are changing their diets. I hope that the Government will sponsor a survey to find out whether eating habits are being changed. All the stories I have heard indicate that people are cutting down on buying good food and meat, and instead are buying a lot of rubbish, such as pies and cakes. I think it is high time, now that food prices are soaring, for the Government to undertake a survey.

We have heard from the Opposition Front Bench that we Conservatives would do away with indiscriminate subsidies and give them only to those in need. But we are in danger of creating a real social nightmare. Just as inflation and the Common Market have caused a prices nightmare, if we go ahead with subsidising those most allegedly in need we shall cause a social nightmare. Those who are at the lowest end of the scale are entitled to more and more benefits. More and more people are finding that it is simply not worth while to work because of the massive tax burden and rising fares to work. [Interruption.] Labour Members may laugh, but there are many people who, because of controls on wages, rising fares and high taxation, say that it is not worth while working. There is a very real danger that if we keep on putting more and more subsidies for a limited group of people who are allegedly specially in need, and if we make this burden payable by those earning wages, we shall create a great nightmare.

Is it really worth while going ahead with subsidies of limited effect? We have a ludicrous situation in which we are paying so much money into agriculture within the EEC when more and more food is being provided to go towards more mountains at prices which no one can afford. It is monstrous that we should be haggling about 5p a pound on tea or 6p or 7p a pound on butter more food being produced in every country within the EEC, in order to produce more expensive surpluses. We are simply tilting at windmills when we talk about these small subsidies which the Government are going to phase out.

The problem is that families are finding it more and more difficult to pay the prices they have to pay for decent food. Whether the figure is £300 million or £500 million as in the Order will make very little difference unless we tackle this monstrous situation in which a lot of money goes towards encouraging farmers to produce more and more food which we cannot afford to buy.

1.19 a.m.

Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)

I congratulate the Government on coming forward to increase the food subsidies because I think that this is essential at present.

In this country since the end of the war we have pursued a cheap food policy. Tonight we are talking about subsidising the consumer, but for many years we subsidised the farmer without hearing any objections from Opposition Members. We did this in order to obtain food far more cheaply than was possible in other countries. The common agricultural policy has had a disastrous effect upon food prices in this country. If we are to remain in the EEC, we must completely revise that policy. It seeks to harmonise prices in this country with those on the Continent, and continental prices are based on the inefficient farming methods of the rest of the Common Market.

We on the Labour side have supported policies initiated by Tom Williams and carried on by successive Governments under which the farmer was subsidised. The farmer operated an efficient system and the housewife enjoyed the benefits of cheap food. The Government must try to safeguard the housewife now from the high food prices which are inevitable in the EEC.

The TUC special congress will meet on Wednesday. We hope that it will deliver the goods and carry through the policy of restraint on personal incomes for a further 12 months. One of our major problems is inflation, and pay restraint is a vital element in the fight against it. The Conservatives tried a statutory incomes policy and it failed miserably. That led to the February 1974 General Election. [Interruption.] It is a pity that those who have been speculating over sterling have not shown the same patriotism as that which will be displayed on Wednesday at the TUC.

Food subsidies are a part of the social contract. If the workers are to be expected to exercise restraint over their pay increases, it is incumbent upon the Government to pursue policies that will restrain price rises. The Opposition can speculate about how many pence per week the subsidies are worth to families. A few pence may not mean much to the Tories, but to the family which must watch every penny the subsidies are an important factor.

The Government are right to seek to increase the amount in the Order. Food subsidies are part of the wider strategy with which the Government are succeeding. If we can get a change in or abandonment of the CAP and a return to the policy of cheaper food, things will improve. In the meantime, let us support the Government on food subsidies. In that way we can encourage the trade unions to support the lead given by the TUC and back the incomes restraint which will get us out of the inflationary spiral.

1.25 a.m.

Mr. Norman Lamont (Kingston-upon-Thames)

Inevitably some of the debate has gone over ground that we have covered before on this subject, but it has reinforced our view that food subsidies are of little or no use in the fight against inflation. My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Oppenheim) made our position quite clear. We think that these food subsidies ought to be phased out more quickly than the Government are intending and more quickly than the Government have announced in their public expenditure plans.

I was a little puzzled by the attitude of the Under-Secretary of State when he expressed some sympathy with and interest in the idea of extending and prolonging food subsidies when, of course, the Government have made clear in the Public Expenditure White Paper their intention to phase out subsidies. Let us hear nothing from the Under-Secretary about hon. Members on this side of the House trying to face two ways at once, because that is precisely what he is trying to do tonight.

We believe that a figure of £300 million rather than £500 million would be a realistic figure under the Order. That would halve the rate of subsidy next year.

The Conservative Opposition have made it clear that there are a number of objections to the principle of food subsidies. The first is the distortion which may be caused by lowering the price of subsidised foods relative to other goods. We have seen the problem of the consumption of margarine relative to the consumption of butter. We have seen the Secretary of State herself admitting the over-consumption of cheese, and she has had to reduce the subsidy by 2p per 1b as from 25th June this year. There is also the possibility that food subsidies may lead to increased imports of some particular foods. That has led to rumours on the Continent of Danish and Dutch farmers erecting statues to the Secretary of State because they see the benefit to them and their exports of food subsidies.

Our second main objection to food subsidies is a public expenditure one. It is well known that the Conservative Opposition feel that the level of public spending, and the level of borrowing, is too high and that this is putting our economic situation at enormous risk. It is one thing to borrow enormous sums of money for investment; it is quite another thing to borrow enormous sums of money simply to finance consumption. That is what we are doing at the moment, and that is how we are living beyond our means.

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)

Does the hon. Gentleman therefore object to Barclaycard and Access?

Mr. Lamont

The hon. Gentleman's interjection about borrowing in the private sector has very little to do with borrowing by the Government and borrowing in the public sector. Indeed, it is the size of the borrowing in the public sector that has put enormous pressure on the private sector and has endangered jobs and the standard of living.

It is our view that the level of spending ought to be cut, and Labour Members are always asking us what we would cut.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Fred Peart)

Can the hon. Gentleman tell me where, in agricultural production, we could cut expenditure?

Mr. Lamont

As the Minister is well aware, we are talking about food subsidies. Here we are giving a specific example, with specific figures, of where public expenditure would be cut. Hon. Members cannot say, as they do so often, that this would lead to unemployment. Here we have an example of where public expenditure could be cut back quickly without any effect whatsoever on employment.

Furthermore, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester has emphasised, if the Government took a firm line on public expenditure it could lead to a strengthening of the pound, and that could dwarf the effect of subsidies on the Retail Price Index. We saw in March that the pound slipped by 5 per cent. in one week That has a larger effect on the RPI than food subsidies have in a whole year. Since the beginning of the year we have seen the pound slip by an amount which over the next 12 months will add about 4 per cent. to the RPI, again dwarfing anything that could happen through subsidies.

Let hon. Members opposite realise, if they are prepared to face up to the need to cut public expenditure to put our national finances in order and pursue policies that could strengthen the pound, that that will have a much more dramatic effect upon the RPI than any fiddling around with subsidies.

The third reason why we reject the food subsidies is that they have nothing to do with overcoming the problem of inflation.

To doctor the Retail Price Index is merely to tinker around with the symptoms. It has nothing to do with the real underlying causes of inflation. All the money poured into food subsidies—£1,000 million—cannot prevent the price of food continuing to rise. The £1,000 million has not prevented all foods going up by 54 per cent. in price since the present Government came to office. The subsidy on milk has not prevented its price going up by over 54 per cent. The subsidy on cheese has not prevented the price going up by 56 per cent. The subsidy has not prevented fresh foods going up in price by 60 per cent. All of this, too, is dwarfed by the fact that since the present Government came to power the Retail Price Index has gone up by over 50 per cent.

Hon. Members opposite say—and the Under-Secretary said it again tonight—that inflation is now coming down, that we shall be back on course and we shall get down to single figure inflation possibly by the end of the year. If that is the case, it has nothing to do with ¾p per person per week on the tea subsidy. It has nothing to do with ¼p per person per week on the flour subsidy. That is not why inflation is coming down. The reason why inflation is coming down is the depth of the recession and the fear of unemployment.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)

The whole tenor of the hon. Gentleman's speech during the past five minutes has been against food subsidies. Could he explain—nobody on the Benches opposite has done so yet—why hon. Members opposite are prepared to spend £300 million more on food subsidies and not the £500 million that the Government are proposing? Are they not facing both ways at once?

Mr. Lamont

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has just come into the Chamber, but the position has been explained several times. We have always said that subsidies should be phased out rather than cut out immediately. We are against food subsidies in principle, but we recognise that the adjustment has to be made gradually. That seems to me to be an overwhelmingly reasonable and sensible approach to take.

The fourth and last reason why we are against food subsidies is that they are an extremely inefficient and ineffective way of helping the poorer members of the community. They are like buckshot. A lot of it simply misses the target. They are indiscriminate subsidies which go to help tourists visiting the country, businessmen dining, property developers at l'Ecu de France eating imported cheese. It is a totally indiscriminate subsidy.

I have no doubt that the Under-Secretary would choose to single out a different list of people. He would choose to single out one-parent families, low-paid workers and a whole lot of other similarly selective cases, all of whom are no doubt getting tired of being trotted out for every bogus piece of social justice.

The fact is that more help should be given to the needy in other ways. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that, although the subsidising of bread could undoubtedly help the millionaires, if any millionaire felt guilty about it he could send a donation. It is not millionaires who should feel guilty about wasting money. It is the Government who have connived at this scandalous misuse of public money.

We have had the scrapping of the Child Benefit Scheme. The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) said that by harping on cash benefits and saying that the money could be used in other ways we were favouring a return to the means-test State. But there are many benefits which could be improved with this money and which would not involve a means test. Subsidies are indiscriminate in their help. Something like 52 per cent. of the population gets 50 per cent. of the benefit of food subsidies. In 1975, when food subsidies were costing just over £500 million, we were told by the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection that for less than half that amount—£160 million—one could have given a social security benefit which would have provided the same amount in cash as we have been given much more expensively through food subsidies.

The hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Roberts) justified and supported food subsidies on the ground that they were redistributive. I do not know whether he saw the article which appeared in New Society in January 1975 by Mr. Ritson, of Reading University, who argued that a large part of food subsidies was going to the middle- and upper middle-income groups. He said that those earning between £41 and £70 a week were receiving about £200 million—

Mr. Ioan Evans


Mr. Lamont

— I am answering the hon. Gentleman's point—in subsidies and contributed only £140 million.

Mr. Ioan Evans

They paid taxes.

Mr. Lamont

The hon. Gentleman says that they paid taxes. We know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget Statement in late 1975 that food subsidies were financed out of indirect taxes. That is not my claim. That was the right hon. Gentleman's claim. He told us that it was necessary to put up indirect taxes to maintain the food subisidies. That is why food subsidies are such a pious fraud. Those who benefit from them are those who have to pay for them. They are financed largely out of levies on cigarettes, beer and tobacco. That is why less than one-quarter of the benefit is going to low-income families.

We cannot go on with the level of public spending that we have. We cannot go on with the level of borrowing that we have. Unless this House is prepared to face reality, reality will face it soon. It will face it with the growing lack of confidence of our creditors and in our currency. Food subsidies are not an effective way of helping the worse-off. They are not an instrument of social justice. They are not an instrument for defeating inflation. They simply contribute to our overspending and over-borrowing. For that reason they make our economic situation even more dangerous and precarious than it is. I urge my hon. Friends to vote against the Order.

1.37 a.m.

Mr. Maclennan

With the leave of the House, I should like to say that this debate has highlighted yet again the Opposition's complete failure to come to terms with the realities of economic inflation. The speech by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Lamont) encapsulated the paucity of thinking that the Opposition have demonstrated from the beginning on this matter. It does not matter what policy the Government produce—whether it be a tightening of the Price Code or the introduction of the Price Check Scheme—the Opposition oppose it. When we bring forward measures to enable consumers to have better advice about their purchases in the shops so that they know whether they have been getting value for money, the Opposition oppose it.

The hon. Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Oppenheim) refused to go to the opening of the consumer advice centre in Gloucester yesterday. [Interruption.]

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the Under-Secretary of State to say that I refused to open a shop in my constituency when it is absolutely untrue?

Mr. Maclennan

The hon. Lady has made clear her opposition to consumer advice centres by her refusal to be present at the opening of the centre in Gloucester, which was reported in the Press. [Interruption.] I think that the hon. Lady accepted the invitation and then withdrew. It appears that on that matter, as on other matters, she was facing two ways.

The hon. Member for Gloucester attacked my right hon. Friend for not opening the debate. The hon. Lady has been in the House long enough to know that Orders of this kind are normally introduced by junior Ministers, and it indicates petulance on her part to suggest that there should be a departure from normal procedure.

The hon. Lady devalues these debates, which are important and raise issues of principle and public expenditure, by slinging around the Chamber accusations of cheating, fraud and dishonesty. It adds nothing to the quality of the debate that the hon. Lady should choose to use this sort of language.

Mr. English

Does my hon. Friend realise that the whole House is fed up with both side. By a majority of two-thirds the people of the United Kingdom, knowing what they were doing, were prepared to vote, amongst other things, to go into the European Community, knowing that that would increase food prices. Here we are, wasting public expenditure which could be better spent on old-age pensions or other benefits. The hon. Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Oppenheim), the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Lamont), the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary have never mentioned this.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Order. Mr. Maclennan.

Mr. Maclennan

I have some sympathy with my hon. Friend's irritation, which is not surprising. Perhaps I can give him a lift home afterwards and have a chat with him about it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) properly identified the issue raised by the debate. He at least was prepared to confront the issues of principle involved in the Government's policy, to support them and to ask whether it was appropriate to run down food subsidies at the rate adumbrated in the White Paper. The case for the rundown of food subsidies to the extent outlined in the White Paper can be made out in terms of the other social benefits that have been introduced and that were not available at the time food subsidies were brought forward, and in terms of the Government's success in moderating the rise in the cost of living.

Mr. Giles Shaw (Pudsey)


Mr. Maclennan

No, I cannot give way. I have too many points to make.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), in a thoughtful speech, questioned the policy of his Front Bench in promoting the case for selective assistance to the less well off. I was not clear from his speech whether he was advocating no help at all to the needy or was on this occasion backing the Government in continuing the food subsidy programme, which we consider meritorious because it does not lead to the sort of problems he described.

The hon. Member for Cathcart asked for a progress report on how the country was doing in the battle against inflation. We can take encouragement from the trends now clearly established. We have had eight months of decline in the rate of inflation, month by month. We have seen improvements in the food index which are particularly relevant and encouraging in the context of this debate. The food index in respect of all items, including seasonal foods, has been seriously distorted in the last few months by the potato shortage, but even in respect of the food index including seasonal foods there is some encouragement to be taken from the fact that from December the rate has fallen, on a year-on-year basis, from 26 per cent, to 19.9 per cent. in April.

In respect of the food index—less seasonal foods—the picture is encouraging. It shows a steady decline from the peak month in June, when it stood at 29.1 per cent., to April, where it was as low as 13.8 per cent. This marks genuine progress in the Government's battle against inflation and gives us reason to believe that we are on course towards the target which the Chancellor has set.

Today, the wholesale price indices have been announced. Here again there are some grounds for encouragement. It is known that the picture on the output side has been encouraging for a number of months. The change in the index for all manufactured products measured over a 12-month period has now fallen for 12 successive months. The figure fell from 15.8 per cent. for April to 14.6 per cent. for May. In respect of the input prices, again we can note a distinctive improvement this month over last—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. It would be of great convenience to the Chamber if urgent private conversations took place in other parts of the building.

Mr. Maclennan

The provisional input index for this month for materials and fuels purchased by manufacturing industry rose by 2 per cent., which was half the rate of increase of last month, so that the projections—

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim


Mr. Maclennan

I shall not give way to the hon. Lady. Other Opposition Members made more constructive speeches than that of the hon. Lady, and they deserve an answer. The hon. Lady asked for the facts. These are the facts. The facts are that this Government's policy to beat inflation is working and is being seen to work. If the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames thinks that food subsidies, the Price Check Scheme, the Price Code, the consumer advice centres, and the price comparison schemes conducted by local authorities, have noth- ing to do with it, he will convince very few people.

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim


Mr. Maclennan

No. I shall not give way. This country is succeeding and it is succeeding because the people of the country are determined that we shall succeed in beating inflation. This time last year, when the policy of wage restraint was being debated by the trade unions, the scepticism voiced by hon. Members opposite about the success of that policy was tangible. We have heard similar but somewhat less sceptical comments this time. I venture to prophesy—I agree that it is dangerous—that we shall achieve the targets we have set ourselves, and in achieving those targets the policy that we have chosen, of sub. sidising food that constitutes an import. ant part of diet of the less well off, about whom the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames felt is merely appropriate to joke, is important. The hon. Member has belittled, as have other hon. Members opposite, the value of the food subsidies. At present, they are worth 5.4 points on the food index—not a negligible amount. To a typical family of father, mother and two children, they are worth 65p per week—not a negligible amount. They are worth 39p to an old-age pensioner couple—not a negligible amount.

In bringing forward suggestions as to alternative priorities for further social expenditure, it is a mistake to underrate the value of the role and acceptability of food subsidies.

1.52 a.m.

Mr. Giles Shaw (Pudsey)

I am grateful to have the chance of catching your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry that the Minister was unable to give way, for I was awaiting the clarion call of his commitment to the phasing-out of food subsidies on time according to the programme. It has been noticeable in the debate that there is a vast difference of view among hon. Members on the Government Benches on the question whether the policy of discontinuing food subsidies is to be adhered to. Hon. Members below the Gangway who are fundamentally concerned with social engineering—including the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Roberts), with his nutritional interest in the tea subsidy—take a different view from that of the Government, and I respect it.

The Under-Secretary of State failed to demonstrate that the case for continuing subsidies at this level has to be made on exceptional grounds. The hon. Gentleman will surely understand—the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) has an interest in means-tested benefits—that the whole country is going through a means-tested benefit in this case.

Mr. Maclennan


Mr. Shaw


Mr. Maclennan


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Minister is well aware that the hon. Member who has the Floor remains in charge.

Mr. Maclennan


Mr. Shaw


Mr. Maclennan


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I thought that it was plain that the hon. Member for Pudsey (Mr. Shaw) was keeping the Floor.

Mr. Maclennan

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I beg your pardon. I do not think it was appreciated that I was trying to make a point of order. It was simply to state that I would have been willing to answer the hon. Gentleman's question if he had had a question to put.

Mr. Shaw

I am grateful. For the next hour and a half I may sustain the argument, if the hon. Gentleman wishes me to do so. If he can say that there is to be a discontinuance of food subsidies according to the Government's pro-

grame, I shall give way to him and resume my remarks when he has answered that question.

Mr. Maclennan

The Government's plans for future expenditure on food subsidies were set out in the White Paper, from which no departure has been made this evening. No issue of principle has arisen in the debate, nor is one embodied in the Order, that suggests that the programe is in any way altered. It is necessary in order to give effect to the proposals in the White Paper that this Order should be approved. I hope the hon. Gentleman understands that.

Mr. Shaw

I am grateful for the confirmation that there is to be no attempt by the Government to accept the arguments from their own side that there should be an increase in food subsidies. We obviously agree with that proposition.

The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West argued about means-tested benefits. The country is experiencing the greatest crisis of all time. When we discuss the expenditure of items such as £500 million on food subsidies the only question that we must ask ourselves is that which my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Lamont) asked —namely, are we justified in the present state of Government expenditure and borrowing? We have to say that there are no reasons for justifying it. Not one reason has been advanced. We know that a proportion goes to the poor families on low incomes and to pensioners—

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of Proceedings on the Motion, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted Business).

The House divided: Ayes 248. Noes 237.

Division No 180.] AYES [1.56 a.m.
Allaun, Frank Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Buchan, Norman
Anderson, Donald Bidwell, Sydney Buchanan, Richard
Archer, Peter Bishop, E. S. Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)
Armstrong, Ernest Blenkinsop, Arthur Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)
Ashton, Joe Boardman, H. Campbell, Ian
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Booth, Rt Hon Albert Canavan, Dennis
Atkinson, Norman Boothroyd, Miss Betty Cant, R. B.
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Carmichael, Neil
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Bradley, Tom Cartwright, John
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Bray, Dr Jeremy Castle, Rt Hon Barbara
Bates, Alf Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Clemitson, Ivor
Bean, R. E. Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Brown, Ronald (Hackney S) Cohen, Stanley
Coleman, Donald Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Price, William (Rugby)
Colquhoun, Ms Maureen Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Perry, Ernest
Concannon, J. D. Janner, Greville Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Radice, Giles
Corbett, Robin Jeger, Mrs. Lena Richardson, Miss Jo
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) John, Brynmor Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Crawshaw, Richard Johnson, James (Hull West) Robinson, Geoffrey
Cronin, John Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Roderick, Caerwyn
Cryer, Bob Jones, Barry (East Flint) Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Kaufman, Gerald Rooker, J. W.
Dalyell, Tam Kerr, Russell Roper, John
Davidson, Arthur Kilroy-Silk, Robert Rose, Paul B.
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Lambie, David Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Lamborn, Harry Rowlands, Ted
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Lamond, James Sandelson, Neville
Deakins, Eric Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Sedgemore, Brian
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Leadbitter, Ted Selby, Harry
de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Lewis, Arthur (Newham N) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Dempsey, James Loyden, Eddie Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Doig, Peter Luard, Evan Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Dormand, J. D. Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Duffy, A. E. P. McCartney, Hugh Silverman, Julius
Dunnett, Jack McElhone, Frank Skinner, Dennis
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth MacFarquhar, Roderick Small, William
Eadie, Alex McGuire, Michael (Ince) Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Edge, Geoff Mackenzie, Gregor Snape, Peter
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Maclennan, Robert Spearing, Nigel
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Stallard, A. W.
English, Michael McNamara, Kevin Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Madden, Max Strang, Gavin
Evans John (Newton) Magee, Bryan Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Mahon, Simon Swain, Thomas
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Mallalleu, J. P. W. Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Marks, Kenneth Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Flannery, Martin Marquand, David Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Marshall, Dr. Edmund (Goole) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Maynard, Miss Joan Tierney, Sydney
Ford, Ben Meacher, Michael Tinn, James
Forrester, John Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Tomlinson, John
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Mendelson John Tuck, Raphael
Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Mikardo, Ian Urwin, T. W.
Freeson, Reginald Millan, Bruce Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
George, Bruce Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen) Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Ginsburg, David Molloy, William Ward, Michael
Golding, John Moonman, Eric Watkins, David
Gould, Bryan Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Watkinson, John
Grant, George (Morpeth) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Wellbeloved, James
Grant, John (Islington C) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Grocott, Bruce Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick White, James (Pollok)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Whitehead, Phillip
Hardy, Peter Newens, Stanley Whitlock, William
Harper, Joseph Noble, Mike Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Oakes, Gordon Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Hart, Rt Hon Judith Ogden, Eric Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Hatton, Frank O'Halloran, Michael Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Heffer, Eric S. Orbach, Maurice Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Hooley, Frank Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wise, Mrs Audrey
Horam, John Ovenden, John Woodall, Alec
Howell, Rt Hon Denis Owen, Dr David Woof, Robert
Huckfield, Les Padley, Walter Wrigglesworth, Ian
Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Palmer, Arthur Young, David (Bolton E)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Park, George
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Pavitt, Laurie TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hunter, Adam Peart, Rt Hon Fred Mr. Ted Graham and
Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Pendry, Tom Mr. David Stoddart
Adley, Robert Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Braine, Sir Bernard
Aitken, Jonathan Benyon, W. Brittan, Leon
Alison, Michael Biffen, John Brocklebank-Fowler, C.
Arnold, Tom Biggs-Davison, John Brotherton, Michael
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Blaker, Peter Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)
Awdry, Daniel Body, Richard Buchanan-Smith, Alick
Baker, Kenneth Boscawen, Hon Robert Buck, Antony
Banks, Robert Bottomley, Peter Budgen, Nick
Beith, A. J. Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Bulmer, Esmond
Bell, Ronald Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Burden, F. A.
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Hurd, Douglas Pattie, Geoffrey
Carlisle, Mark James, David Penhaligon, David
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Jenkin, Rt Hn P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd) Percival, Ian
Channon, Paul Jessel, Toby Peyton, Rt Hon John
Churchill, W. S. Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Pink, R. Bonner
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Clark, William (Croydon S) Jopling, Michael Prior, Rt Hon James
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Clegg, Walter Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Raison, Timothy
Cockcroft, John Kershaw, Anthony Rathbone, Tim
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Kimball, Marcus Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Cope, John King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Cordle, John H. King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Cormack, Patrick Kitson, Sir Timothy Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Corrie, John Knight, Mrs Jill Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Costain, A. P. Knox, David Ridsdale, Julian
Crouch, David Lamont, Norman Rifkind, Malcolm
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) Lane, David Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Latham, Michael (Melton) Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lawrence, Ivan Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Drayson, Burnaby Lawson, Nigel Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Lester, Jim (Beeston) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Durant, Tony Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Scott, Nicholas
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Lloyd, Ian Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Loveridge, John Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Emery, Peter Luce, Richard Shelton, William (Streatham)
Eyre, Reginald McCrindle, Robert Shepherd, Colin
Fairgrieve, Russell Macfariane, Neil Shersby, Michael
Farr, John MacGregor, John Silvester, Fred
Fell, Anthony Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Sims, Roger
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Sinclair, Sir George
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles McNair-Wilson P. (New Forest) Skeet T. H. H.
Fookes, Miss Janet Madel, David Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Forman, Nigel Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Speed, Keith
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Marten, Neil Spence, John
Fox, Marcus Mates Michael Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Mather, Carol Sproat, Iain
Freud, Clement Maude, Angus Stainton, Keith
Fry, Peter Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald Stanbrook, Ivor
Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Mawby, Ray Stanley, John
Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Glyn, Dr. Alan Mayhew, Patrick Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Meyer, Sir Anthony Stradling, Thomas J.
Goodhart Philip Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Tapsell, Peter
Goodhew, Victor Mills, Peter Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Goodlad, Alastair Miscampbell, Norman Tebbit, Norman
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Temple-Morris, Peter
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Moate, Roger Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Monro, Hector Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Gray, Hamish Montgomery, Fergus Townsend, Cyril D.
Griffiths, Eldon Moore, John (Croydon C) Trotter, Neville
Grist, Ian More, Jasper (Ludlow) Tugendhat, Christopher
Grylls, Michael Morgan, Geraint van Straubenzee, W. R.
Hall, Sir John Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Viggers, Peter
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Wakeham, John
Hampson, Dr Keith Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Hannam, John Mudd, David Wall, Patrick
Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Neave, Airey Walters, Dennis
Hastings, Stephen Nelson, Anthony Weatherill, Bernard
Havers, Sir Michael Neubert, Michael Wells, John
Hayhoe, Barney Newton, Tony Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Normanton, Tom Wiggin, Jerry
Heseltine, Michael Nott, John Winterton, Nicholas
Hicks, Robert Onslow, Cranley Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Higgins, Terence L. Oppenheim, Mrs Sally Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Holland, Philip Osborn, John
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Page, John (Harrow West) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hunt, David (Wirral) Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Mr. Anthony Berry and
Hunt, John Parkinson, Cecil Mr. Spencer Le Marchant.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the Food Subsidies (Increase of Financial Limit) Order 1976, a draft of which was laid before this House on 14th May, be approved.

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