HC Deb 15 November 1976 vol 919 cc921-2
23. Sir George Young

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection how much food prices have increased since February 1974.

Mr. Hattersley

The food index has risen by 67.8 per cent. between 19th February 1974 and 12th October 1976.

Sir G. Young

Does the Secretary of State agree that lower-income families have been hit much worse proportionately by this increase than those who are better off? Would it not, therefore, be a better use of the public funds that are available if blanket food subsidies were removed and if part of the funds were directed more selectively to those in real need?

Mr. Hattersley

I take the hon. Gentleman's point about the particular difficulties experienced by lower-income families. During the period in which food subsidies are to be run out—as the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced on 22nd July—I shall do my best to concentrate what remains on the foods which are particularly high in the budgets of lower-income families and to reduce it for the foods which are bought, in larger quantities, by families higher up the income scale.

Mr. Jay

Does my right hon. Friend think that the additional import taxes and levies imposed on all the main foodstuffs as part of the common agricultural policy since 1972 have had the effect of raising or lowering food prices here?

Mr. Hattersley

I have no doubt whatsoever that, taken overall, the advantage that we now get from green pound arrangements means that we are now in benefit. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh".] The problem to which my right hon. Friend refers is one that puts us at a disadvantage. However, as I have said to him on many previous occasions when answering from the Dispatch Box, he must look at the thing as a whole. On the whole, it is to our benefit to be in the Community and to enjoy the Community's food price regimes.