HC Deb 27 June 1996 vol 280 cc451-2
3. Mr. Booth

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the role of his inflation target in securing sustainable growth. [33407]

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mrs. Angela Knight)

The inflation target of 2½ per cent. or less is set to deliver permanently low inflation, which is vital for delivering sustainable growth.

Mr. Booth

As those under 50 in this country who pay attention to such things are applauding the fact that, for the first time in their lives, inflation is at its lowest level—2.2 per cent.—and as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is applauding low inflation around the world, is it not odd that almost me only group that is not applauding the success of our inflation target is those on the Labour Front Benches? Could it be that Labour is the party of high inflation?

Mrs. Knight

My hon. Friend makes a good point about low inflation and the fact that this country is enjoying a long spell of low inflation which brings stability to individuals and companies and helps to create jobs. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend's point about the Labour party. We all know that the Opposition have a vested interest in running down the economy and this country. When Labour was in charge, inflation soared.

Mrs. Helen Jackson

The Exchequer will be aware that all the water and sewerage companies have produced their results for this year. They total £1.8 billion, which is four times the rate of inflation. How can that be fair in an industry which has increased its prices to customers above the rate of inflation every year since privatisation?

Mrs. Knight

The hon. Lady's dislike of privatisation is well known. I remind her that, when her party was in charge and when it was running the then nationalised companies, those companies cost the taxpayer more than £50 million a week. Those companies now contribute £50 million a week to the public purse. They are providing a better service for customers and water industry companies have contributed much-needed investment.