asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection by how much food prices have increased in the United Kingdom since 1st January 1973; and what proportion of this figure can be attributed to membership of the EEC.
The food price index rose by 37·4 per cent. between January 1973 and December 1974. Latest official estimates indicate that food prices are, on balance, very slightly lower than they would have been were we not members of the Community. But the further we get from the date of entry into the Community, the harder it is to calculate what food prices would have been if we had stayed out.
Will the right hon. Lady say whether any items of food which are imported from the EEC have been subjected to the kind of almost extortionate increases to which certain imports of food from other quarters have been subject?
The most dramatic increases in prices have been in fuel and sugar, and there are no such dramatic increases which can be associated with the EEC countries. Nevertheless, broadly speaking, it is still true that butter, cheese and Iamb from New Zealand are cheaper than they are from EEC sources whereas, largely because of the monetary compensatory amounts, wheat, beef and sugar are now less expensive from EEC sources than from outside.
Although that answer is very encouraging, does the right hon. Lady agree that world prices come down easier than Common Market prices?
It is difficult to predict what will be the pattern of world prices in the next year or so. Obviously there is more volatility in world prices, upwards and downwards, because they are not subject to the kind of regime that the common agricultural policy involves.