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Food Affordability and Inflation

Volume 738: debated on Thursday 19 October 2023

In September 2023, the consumer price index was at 12.2%, down from 14.8% in July. Industry analysis expects that food price inflation will continue to decrease over the remainder of 2023. The Government are providing an average of £3,300 per household to support them with the cost of living this year and next.

The West Lothian food bank in my Livingston constituency does an incredible job, just like food banks across the UK, but the reality is that it should not even have to exist. Folk are struggling more than ever, which is why the SNP has called on the UK Government to control supermarket price gouging, amid record profiteering, by introducing a price cap on staples such as bread and milk. Will the Minister help all our constituents by getting on with doing that?

If the hon. Lady compares the price of a shopping basket around Europe with the price here in the UK, she will see that the free market is doing a lot of work to suppress food inflation. We have a cheaper food basket than they have in France and Germany. She is, in effect, advocating communism. She should look at how that works around the world. Controlling those markets does not work.

Prior to the Westminster crisis that has been inflicted on us all by the Tory party, a loaf of wholemeal bread cost £1.01. Even after a slight drop in food prices, the price is now 20% higher. We know the farmers are not benefiting from these price increases. The price of milk in supermarkets today is almost twice what we pay the farmers for their product. Why will the Government and the Secretary of State not consider price caps to stop the supermarkets profiteering and to help ensure that basic essentials are not beyond the reach of many people?

We have done an enormous amount of work in this area to help to support primary producers and farmers. We will legislate in the dairy sector to help to make sure those contracts are fair, and to make sure we have fairness across the supply chain. The hon. Gentleman is advocating the control of market prices, which would have exactly the opposite effect of what he wants to achieve. It would drive up prices across the country, and we would end up in a far worse place.