Consumers' expenditure on food is estimated at £2,949 million in 1951 and £4,672 million in 1958. It is not possible to isolate the effect of price movements with any precision because of changes in the pattern of consumption, but comparison of these figures with the corresponding estimates re-valued at average 1954 prices suggests that roughly a quarter of total expenditure on food in 1958 was attributable to increases in prices since 1951.
Mr. H. Wilson:
That statement is quite incorrect and, in any case, does not relate to import prices. The supplementary question I wish to put is not controversial. Will the hon. Gentleman clear up something which was not clear from his Answer? Did he say that a quarter of the 1958 expenditure on food—it sounded like this—was due to increased prices or was a quarter of the increase between 1951 and 1958?
In order to avoid any error I will read that part of my Answer again:
but comparison of these figures"—
namely, the figures I gave in the earlier part of my Answer—
with the corresponding estimates re-valued at average 1954 prices suggests that roughly a quarter of total expenditure on food in 1958 was attributable to increases in prices since 1951.
Very much the reverse. This Question is a difficult one to which to give a complete and accurate Answer, as it involves making certain estimates and calculations. We have done our best to provide an accurate comparison, but it would be quite misleading and incorrect to draw the deduction which the right hon. Gentleman has drawn.
Mr. H. Wilson:
Although the Economic Secretary wants to see the question on the Order Paper, does it not follow from what he has said that a quarter of the 1958 figure would represent about £1,150 million? Since the total increase is only £1,700 million, would we not be justified in saying that £1,150 million of the £1,700 million increase was due to increased prices?