HC Deb 05 December 1977 vol 940 cc990-1
6. Mr. David Price

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what is his latest estimate of the probable trend of retail prices over the next 12 months.

Mr. Hattersley

The Government's forecast of the annual increase in retail prices was published on 26th October. It was of 13½ per cent. for the final quarter of 1977 and 6½ per cent. in the final quarter of 1978. I expect the rate of inflation to fall to single figures in the first half of 1978. But a continued reduction in the inflation rate is dependent upon the general level of wage settlements remaining within the Government's guidelines.

Mr. Price

I was aware of those figures. Is the Secretary of State saying that on the 1978 year-on-year figures the rate of inflation will be less than 10 per cent. by the end of the year? If he does, is he prepared to take a wager with me that it will be above 10 per cent. by 31st December 1978. I wager him a dinner!

Mr. Hattersley

I am not sure that I am prepared to take a dinner wager until I hear with whom I shall have to have it. But my answer to the first question is "Yes". That is what I am saying. I believe that a single-figure inflation rate will be achieved in the spring of this year and will be maintained throughout 1978.

Mr. Powell

As the right hon Gentleman referred to the Barber printing boom as the cause of the rise in inflation from 1973 onwards, is he quite sure that there has not been a printing boomlet in the last few months?

Mr. Hattersley

Yes, I am. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with me about the responsibility for inflation beginning during that period, and that he applauds, as I do, the fact that we have applied considerable monetary restraints over the last year and a half. That certainly makes a contribution towards the improvement in the inflation prospects, but it is not the whole story.