HC Deb 04 December 1986 vol 106 c1065
2. Mr. Robert Atkins

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will state the percentage rise in food prices between 1980 and 1985 as compared with all consumer expenditure items.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Donald Thompson)

Between 1980 and 1985, the food component of the retail prices index rose by 31 per cent. compared with a 42 per cent. increase in the retail prices index as a whole.

Mr. Atkins

Does my hon. Friend agree that this is a splendid success for British agriculture and for the British Government? Will he compare the average annual increase of 6.1 per cent. under this Government with the 16.4 per cent. each year under the last Labour Government?

Mr. Thompson

I should like to compare that increase again and to emphasise the comparison. I reiterate the 6.1 per cent. increase under this Government and the 16.4 per cent. increase under the previous Government. We try as hard as we can to keep food prices at a reasonable level.

Mr. Deakins

Would it make any difference to the comparison the Minister has drawn if the base figure was that for 1978 or 1979?

Mr. Thompson

The fact remains that food prices have increased at a lower rate under this Government than when the hon. Gentleman was a Minister in his party's Government.

Mr. Marland

Does my hon. Friend agree that the marvellous record of the food producers of this country is a great contribution towards reducing the rate of inflation?

Mr. Thompson

It is not difficult to agree with that question. Indeed, I fully agree with it.

Mr. Randall

Does the Minister agree that the figures he has quoted are averages and that they are quite misleading in respect of poor people? Does he agree that food prices for the poor are much higher, certainly when they are expressed as a percentage of the total income of those who fall into this category?

Mr. Thompson

Not all food prices rise and fall at the same rate. There have been declines this year in the price of food that the poor buy—for instance, in lamb, margarine, cooking fats, tea, sugar, processed vegetables and processed fruit. There has been a relatively stable market in fresh beef, bacon, chicken, pork, butter, milk products, soft drinks and ice cream. Therefore, a total diet can easily be constructed by buying food that has not increased, or has increased very little, in price.

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