My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made it clear in his Budget statement on 11th November that in framing his proposals he had taken account of the need to prevent the pressure of demand from becoming excessive At the same time, we attach the greatest importance to the early achievement of an effective policy for incomes and prices. The hon. Gentleman will find an admirable exposition of the two main kinds of inflation in a report, "The Problem of Rising Prices", published by the O.E.C.D. in 1961.
Is the Minister aware that several of the Chancellor's recent measures are inflationary, by any definition of the term, and calculated to cause hardship to that very large proportion of our people who live on fixed incomes or who earn comparatively low wages, like many of my constituents in North Dorset, whose incomes are, in fact, lower than the relevant figures authorised by the National Assistance Board? Will he agree that his right hon. Friend will not be able to control inflation until he makes up his mind what it means, and will he look at this again as a matter of urgency, in the interests of the whole nation and, particularly, in the interests of the less fortunate members of it?
Hon. Members, certainly those on this side, are deeply concerned with the problems of poverty in many parts of the country and with the low earnings of many workers. This is a matter of deep concern and, as distinct from the previous Administration, we intend to deal with it, in the first instance, through our regional plans, co-ordinated with a national plan. Secondly, we have the will and urgent intent to do something about these problems—
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has already stated that the increase in the duty on oil and petrol is likely to raise the retail price index figure by no more than one—fifth of a point immediately. Hon. Members opposite must make up their minds about the National Insurance contributions. If they want an increase in pensions the increase must be paid for. If they agree, they should say so. The import surcharge was necessary because of the serious balance of payments position that we inherited from the Tory Administration.