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Household Prices

Volume 928: debated on Monday 14 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what further measures he plans to take to keep down household prices.

My right hon. Friend has published proposals for a more effective prices policy to succeed the present control powers when they expire on 31st July.

As the Government have not had much success in keeping down prices, can the hon. Gentleman say whether it is his intention to allow the Post Office to go ahead with its proposal to increase the letter and parcels rates? Can he say how much traffic the Post Office expects to lose by increasing these charges?

The Price Commission has vetted these proposals, and I understand that they are not out of line with the Price Code. Therefore, there is no case for the Secretary of State to intervene.

With regard to the household price of food, may I ask my hon. Friend whether he has seen the figures produced by the National Consumer Council, in association with the Consumers' Association, which reveal that, leaving aside inflation, the Commission's proposals for this year—the last stage of the transition—will increase farm prices by 3 per cent. and that other measures that it is taking will lift the food bill for a family in this country by £600 million a year—that is, by 4 per cent. per household, or 70p on the average household? Ought we not to get out of the CAP, because those are the increases that we shall face, leaving aside inflation?

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is this afternoon engaged in negotiations on the Commission's proposals to which my hon. Friend has referred, and I shall be joining him there later. I think my right hon. Friend will understand that the proposals are still very much a matter for negotiation, and my right hon. Friend has made it clear that he believes that price increases for commodities which are in structural surplus are unacceptable to this Government.

Will the hon. Gentleman, on this one, deliberately eschew longwinded, bureaucratic and incomprehensible answers and say whether the new controls after July will be mild or severe?

If the hon. Gentleman fails to understand my answers, I am afraid that I am not wholly to blame.