§ The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. R. Maudling)
The level of the cost of living depends on many factors, some of which are outside the Government's control. The first task of the Government in this field is to prevent inflation from forcing up prices. Here we have already achieved much, and shall continue with our policy. Further, the restoration of competitive trading in many fields will help to keep prices down. But one of the most important ways of reducing prices is by reducing costs and raising productivity. The Government can help, but this is primarily the task of both sides of industry.
§ Mr. Lewis
Is the Minister not aware that, because of falling world prices of raw materials, there has been a small reduction in the prices of some consumer goods in this country, and equally because world food prices have fallen, whereas we are finding that food prices are going up? Is it not about time that 1893 the Government did something to implement their promise to reduce food prices?
§ Mr. Maudling
For the facts as to the trend of food prices I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the speech made by my right hon. and gallant Friend in the recent debate, and I would remind the hon. Gentleman that the prices of raw materials are only one of the factors in the final cost.
§ Mr. Maudling
The Government are very anxious to bring prices down as soon as possible, but at any rate the stabilisation precedes prices coming down and follows very considerable rises in prices which we inherited.
§ Mr. Marlowe
Would not my hon. Friend agree that the relevant factor is public expenditure and that the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis), who put this Question, could contribute to its reduction by not asking for increases in the salaries of Members of Parliament?