HC Deb 12 June 1978 vol 951 cc645-7
16. Mr. Sims

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what was the average annual rate of inflation between 1945 to 1951, 1951 to 1964, 1964 to 1970, 1970 to 1974 and from 1974 to the latest available date, respectively.

Mr. Hattersley

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie) on 6th June.

Mr. Sims

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that reply. I am sure that he will appreciate that the Question to which he referred was put down after I had put down this Question for oral reply today. Would not he agree that the figure quoted of 91.3 per cent. as the cumulative increase in prices since the Government took office is an appalling indictment of their stewardship? Would not he also agree that an analysis of the figures he quoted showed that during the period of office of Conservative Governments the increase in prices had been just over 5 per cent. while during the period of office of Labour Governments it has been just over 9 per cent.? Is not that one of the figures that the general public should take into account when deciding how much credence they should give the statement that the right hon. Gentleman made yesterday?

Mr. Hattersley

I think that the British public have far more sense than the hon. Gentleman gives them credit for. The figures demonstrate two things—first, that the world, and Western Europe in particular, has had a period of increasing inflation since 1945, and the Labour Government have been in power for the last four years of that period; secondly, the hon. Gentleman picks his dates in an arbitrary and what some people would regard as a trivial fashion. The dates he chooses are General Election dates, but the trends change between General Elections. As I have told the House many times—and will no doubt have to repeat again many times—the increase in inflation in this country, which we have at last brought under control, began in the late winter of 1972 under the Government of the right hon. Member for Sid-cup (Mr. Heath) with Lord Barber at the Treasury.

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

Will not the right hon. Gentleman concede for once that the facts are that under successive Conservative Governments the rates of inflation, based on an average annual rate, are almost half of those under successive Labour Governments in similar periods of time?

Mr. Hattersley

Even that supplementary question is not quite statistically right. But even accepting that it has some approximation to statistical accuracy, which is an achievement in itself for the hon. Lady, let me again make the point, which is the only point worth making, that there have been a number of factors which I wish that one day the hon. Lady would pay special respect to. For example, there was the 400 per cent. increase in oil prices in the winter of 1973–74. This is the sort of thing that determines inflation in this and other countries. The important point about inflation in this country is that it is coming down; we have stabilised the rate. That is in part the achievement of the British people as well as of Her Majesty's Government. I wish that just for once the Conservative Party would celebrate that achievement as something that is very well worth while.

Mr. Kinnock

is my right hon. Friend aware that I do not know which I am most worried about—whether Conservative Members actually believe what they are saying, with all the stupidity and ignorance of history that that would involve, or whether they are doing it simply as a cynical stunt to try to convey to people outside that there is some coincidence between the rate of inflation and General Election dates? Would not that make people outside as stupid—which is inconceivable—as hon. Members opposite?

Mr. Hattersley

Recent history demonstrates the point my hon. Friend makes. The Conservative Party was saying that inflation would begin to rise again in the early summer when it thought that there might be a spring election and wanted to suggest that things would only remain moving in the right direction until that election was over. Now the Conservative Party is making the same error and the same false prophecies again. My only pleasure in all this is that it will be proved right in one thing only—that is, that its constant hope that there will be national deterioration which will bring with it political success for the Conservatives will be proved absolutely false.