HC Deb 24 May 1976 vol 912 cc16-8
11. Mr. Lawson

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection when she intends to pay another visit to the Dudley Consumer Advice Centre.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

I have no plans to do so.

Mr. Lawson

Will the right hon. Lady add a further statistic to the statistic which she has given from a newspaper from which she may or may not have been quoting? As one of the few economically-informed members of the Cabinet, will she say precisely what proportion of the fall from 35 per cent. to 13½ per cent. was, in her opinion, due to price control and the Price Code?

Mrs. Williams

It would be difficult to estimate exactly how much was due to that. I would certainly give the major credit to the wages agreement reached in August 1975.

Mr. Cryer

Does my right hon. Friend accept that devaluation means that wage earners must face increased costs? Does she agree that every Labour Government face the crisis of capitalism and that devaluation and the movement of sterling are an indictment of capitalism and the free market in currency? Is it not time that the Government met this challenge with tighter exchange control?

Mrs. Williams

I agree with my hon. Friend that if the patriotism shown by the great majority of our people was shown by some of those who indulge in currency speculation we should be even further on the way to recovery than we are.

Mr. Gow

Does not the right hon. Lady agree that the continuing decline in the external value of the pound will go on unless and until the public sector borrowing requirement is cut dramatically?

Mrs. Williams

No, I do not think so. I have noticed that there is in the leading articles of many of the most responsible newspapers abroad, including the New York Times, a recognition of the extent of the achievement of the people of this country in accepting a degree of restraint on incomes which was regarded as unprecedented and, indeed, impossible of achievement only a year ago.

Mr. Molloy

Should my right hon. Friend go to Dudley again, will she point out that what is happening in the House of Commons is that Tory Members are running out of their reserves of chagrin because of the success of the Government and that nobody should take too much notice of what they say because they do not really count?

Mrs. Williams

When I next go to Dudley, it would give me more than satisfaction to point out. if given the opportunity, that hon. Gentlemen and hon. Ladies of the Opposition continually attack the Government's prices policy but oppose food subsidies, rent subsidies and the Price Check Scheme, that they appear to want the Price Code to be abolished, and that it would be nice to get something positive from them.

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

Will the Secretary of State give an explanation of her remark to an elderly lady on the occasion of her visit to Dudley, just before being shouted down by an angry crowd of shoppers, that if we kept going at the present rate we could get prices down to the levels which the lady knew when she was a young woman, which would signify a rate of inflation of about 1 per cent. a year? Will the right hon. Lady say when she expects that forecast to materialise? Or is this another Labour Party election promise, or is she now given to wild and irresponsible forecasts—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Supplementary questions are getting very long again.

Mrs. Williams

What the hon. Lady says is a perfectly fair assessment of the way in which the programme was edited. I should be happy to send her a transcript of what was said at length, which would indicate that what I was talking about was the rate of increase per year. I said that I hoped that over a period—which might be a long period—we would get down to the rates of increase which we had seen in the past.

Forward to