HC Deb 28 February 1968 vol 759 cc1377-8
2. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will give the figures for the increase in food prices over the period November, 1967, to January, 1968; and what estimates he has made of the changes over the period January, 1968, to March, 1968.

Mr. Peart

Between mid-November, 1967, and mid-January, 1968, food prices rose by about 2½ per cent. due mainly to the normal seasonal increases at this time of the year and to the effects of the foot-and-mouth epidemic on the price of meat. Retail food prices are affected by many factors including the weather, availability of supplies, stock levels and special offers by manufacturers and retailers. I cannot therefore give an estimate of the change for the period January to March, 1968.

Mr. Roberts

Would not my right hon. Friend agree, however, that, if the full effects of devaluation become felt, the total increase before the year is out could be about 25 to 30 per cent. and that the impact will be greatest on the lower-paid workers and social security recipients? Would not lie also agree that his ability to curb prices may determine the future of the British economy and also the future of the Government?

Mr. Peart

I would hesitate to accept the figure put by my hon. Friend. I cannot isolate the increase caused by devaluation. But obviously price stability is important. There will be price increases, as I have said, but, through our constant watch and the early warning system, we have achieved a restraining effect.

Mr. Godber

Would not the right hon. Gentleman be more emphatic in repudiating the figure suggested by his hon. Friend, which is surely absurd if what the right hon. Gentleman has said previously bears any relation to reality? Incidentally, we on this side are not concerned with the point raised by the hon. Member about the future of the Government. We are not worried about that.

Mr. Peart

I was answering my hon. Friend politely but it was a repudiation and I stress that it was.