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Retail Price Index

Volume 721: debated on Thursday 25 November 1965

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27.

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what change has occurred in the Retail Price Index since the setting up of the National Board for Prices and Incomes.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this represents a distinct improvement on the previous six months, when there was a rise of just over 3 points? It also represents a distinct improvement on the corresponding period in 1964 when one allows for the change in the business cycle, and this presumably points to the growing effectiveness of the Board for Prices and Incomes.

Yes, I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. Since the policy has been working, since the Board has been in operation, prices have stopped rising as they did under right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not know whether that is why hon. Members opposite laugh.

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that steps are being taken for this happy position to continue? After all, as he well knows, the first statement was on bread, and we are now faced with the position that there may well not be bread to go with the hon. Lady's jam. Is he satisfied that steps are being taken?

The difficulty of answering questions from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite is that one is never quite clear whether they believe it is a good thing that this should happen, a sad thing when it happens or a wrong thing. If the hon. Gentleman puts down his Question in the terms that he means, I will do my best to answer it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a comparison of the last six months with the previous six months is a ludicrous one, because in the previous six months there came the Budget in which prices were increased overwhelmingly and all the costs that we still have to bear were increased by the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues in the Government?

Where we increased prices because we introduced taxation increases, it was for reasons of deliberate policy which we explained to the House, which we explained to the country and had the courage to defend. If the right hon. Gentleman does not want a comparison with the previous six months, perhaps he will look at some of the years when he was a distinguished Member on the Government Front Bench. In particular, will he look at 1957, 1961 and 1964 and see whether he wants to come up again for air.