Retail Prices

Oral Answers to Questions — National Finance – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th December 1957.

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Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West 12:00 am, 19th December 1957

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that between October and November the prices of raw wool, raw cotton, raw rubber, lead, imported steel scrap, hides and skins, and zinc fell by 5·2 per cent., 4·4 per cent., 7·9 per cent., 3·2 per cent., 7·6 per cent., 1·5 per cent., and 2·4 per cent. respectively; and whether he will now indicate how far these figures have been reflected in the retail price index.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he is aware that, since his last appeal to manufacturers to reduce prices, there has been a further fall in import prices and, notwithstanding a 1·7 per cent. fall in the wholesale price of basic materials between October and November, there has been no corresponding reduction in retail prices; and what action he proposes to take to ensure that these falling prices are passed on to the consumer;

(2) if he is aware that, whilst almost all types of imports have fallen in price during the past few months, particularly raw materials, the lower prices have been particularly marked with regard to raw wool, raw cotton, raw rubber, lead, imported steel scrap, hides and skins and zinc; whether he will cause an investigation to be made into the industries which use these raw materials for manufactured goods to ascertain why these lower raw material prices have not been passed on in lower prices for the completed manufactured goods; and whether he will consider a special profits tax in his forthcoming budget on these types of industries and manufacturers.

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire West

I have nothing to add to my reply of 12th December to the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence). In regard to the last point in Question No. 24 I cannot anticipate my right hon. Friend's Budget Statement.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

Is the Minister aware that the National Union of Manufacturers has bluntly rejected the appeal of the Chancellor for stabilising prices, much less falling prices, and, indeed, has said in blunt terms that it is no good appealing to its feeling of patriotism on this matter? If it cannot be appealed to on this ground, is he prepared to take more courageous action?

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire West

If I remember aright, it said it thought that it was premature. Of course, it takes time for falls in import prices to work their way through the system, and home costs are four or five times as important as import costs in the final price of the article.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

If the Minister says it takes time for falls to work through the system, can he say when this is likely to happen, because we have had this Government since 1951, prices have been falling ever since—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—world import prices have been dropping ever since 1951; I am glad to hear that hon. Gentlemen opposite agree—and yet at home we have reached the highest cost of living ever. Can we be assured that at some time, if not in the next few months or years, the Government will implement their promise?

Hon. Members:

Answer.