asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he proposes to take to monitor the effect of the recent EEC agreement on food prices.
I am making no further arrangements to monitor the effects on retail prices of the recent farm price settlement ; other factors such as wage increases and energy costs can have a far greater effect on food prices.
Is it not very difficult to monitor those agreements? I am pleased that the Minister is nodding in agreement. Is it not true that we are enmeshed in a web of such agreements? Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) said yesterday—that we cannot attain their objectives? Should we not now return to an open seas policy, and to the Commonwealth?
The hon. Gentleman should look at some of the basic facts. In answer to a later question, figures will be given comparing the increase in food prices and other prices during the seven-and-a-third years that we have been in the Community with the seven-and-a-third years before we joined. The hon. Gentleman might find those figures interesting. During the past 12 months food prices have risen at a slower rate than non-food prices.
Has the Minister detected any concern among his colleagues in the Council of Ministers about the effect of food prices on consumers?
Over a period of two years the total average increase in CAP food prices has been 3¼ per cent. Compared with current rates of European and world inflation, that is a remarkably low increase. At present, food costs in the United Kingdom and elsewhere are rising at a slower rate than other prices. My colleagues are concerned, because they are concerned about inflation.