§ 17. Mr. Ralph Howell
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what has been the rise in food prices since 1979; what has been the rise in prices generally; and if he will make a statement.
§ 38. Sir Hector Monro
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the average annual increase in food prices in the period October 1974 to May 1979; what were the comparable figures for the period May 1979 to December 1987; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Donald Thompson
Between May 1979 and December 1987 the average annual rate of increase in food prices was 5.8 per cent., while the increase for the all-items retail prices index was 7.8 per cent. The current annual rates are 3.7 per cent. for both food prices and the all-items index.
§ Mr. Howell
In view of my hon. Friend's reply, and because consumer expenditure on food since 1979 has fallen from 21 to 15.6 per cent., farm incomes are at their second lowest level since the war and farm assets have fallen to 66 per cent. of what they were in 1979. In view of that, does my hon. Friend agree that there can be no justification in any call for lower producer prices?
§ Mr. Thompson
The consumers benefit from all that my hon. Friend has mentioned. We now have a very steady food price policy which benefits all of us and which in turn, because of its steadiness, must benefit the farmer.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
Instead of jacking up land prices by subsidising unused land, why not let the market operate, let land prices fall and the cost of producing food fall in the long term?
§ Mr. Thompson
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's constituents would be in favour of that, or in favour of turning his constituency into derelict areas of docks and thistles. However, they would be in favour of steady food prices.