Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th March 1973.

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Photo of Mr William Hamling Mr William Hamling , Woolwich West 12:00 am, 12th March 1973

I hope that the Chief Secretary will comment on the price of steel when he replies to the debate. I hope that he will also comment on the price of bacon and on some of the other increases in food prices which are due directly to acceptance of the CAP regulations. Everyone knows that these have been a major factor in price increases in this country during the last 12 months as we have drifted away from the policy of agricultural support adopted by the Labour Party when in office and persisted in, and which the Government have done away with as a consequence of entry into Europe.

Do the terms that have been negotiated by the Government permit us to fix food prices? Do they permit us to fix prices at a lower level than they are now? It seems to me that one of the direct consequences of entry is a high food prices policy, and I am rather surprised that my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins), in his 40-minute speech, did not refer to these major problems when he talked about controlling the price of food.

One of the things that I should like my right hon. Friend and some of my other right hon. and hon. Friends who supported the Government in this policy to tell the House is how they can advocate policies for the control of food prices at the same time as they support the Government's policy on Europe and on food prices. Can we independently in this country adopt a policy of food subsidies of the kind which we operated when in office, and at the same time accept all the consequences of entry into Europe? I hope that the Minister will enlighten the House on that.

Some of the changes in Customs duty apply not only to food, but also to raw materials. One of the questions that we are entitled to ask all those who accepted entry into Europe on these terms is what effect the changes in Customs duties will have on our industrial costs and on our competitiveness. The effect of devaluation will he to make the consequences worse, because we shall be paying out more for our imports, and continuing devaluation will have an even worse consequence for our balance of payments.

All those who have accepted these terms for entry into Europe must accept the consequences. Those who voted for them have disqualified themselves from criticising consequent Government policies which have allowed prices to increase. The acceptance of these terms has led to a change in our food support policy, and those who support the Government's policies cannot at the same time appeal to the workers for restraint. They cannot do that if they support policies which will push up the cost of living still further. The Government policies have contributed directly to the pressure on the housewife and on the working-class by bringing about a huge increase in the price of food.

I said a moment ago, provoked by a sedentary intervention from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, that the price of English steel will go up as a direct consequence of entry into Europe. It has been estimated by non-Socialist newspapers that as a result of our entry the price of steel may go up by 15 per cent. later this year, that the price of sugar will increase in July and that bacon prices will rise.