In view of the concern about rising food prices, would not it be a good idea for my right hon. Friend to remind the nation on television that world shortages are pushing up food prices, as is the TUC boycott on French food imports, but that the common agricultural policy, by stimulating production, will make us less vulnerable to world food prices and that in any event the average family's income over the past three years has more than kept pace with the average weekly food bill?
If the Prime Minister finds it embarrassing to make a broadcast about food prices in the light of his election promises, could he at least spend some time in his next ministerial broadcast describing precisely what he finds to be the unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism and telling the nation what he proposes to do about it?
If in his next ministerial broadcast my right hon. Friend touches on exports, he may care to point out that in 1970 nearly one-quarter of our visible exports were contributed by the 25 leading manufacturing companies. Ought we not to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on continuing to disown his party's proposals for nationalising such companies?
Yes, Sir. I warmly join my hon. Friend in putting forward those congratulations. The only question that this raises in one's mind is how long one will be able to continue putting them forward.
When the Prime Minister next makes such a broadcast, will he explain to Merseyside especially his policy of confiscating the savings of bond holders, most of them with small incomes, in the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, in view of the Government's generous settlement with the shareholders in Rolls-Royce?
The responsibility is that of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. It was its responsibility to run its organisation efficiently and to look after those who had invested money in it. In the case of Rolls-Royce, the Government purchased that organisation and paid a sum which has now been agreed between the receiver and the Government.
Has my right hon. Friend had his attention drawn to the recent statement by Mr. Hugh Scanlon to the effect that the nation may expect increased disturbances in the autumn, no doubt destined to coincide with the arrival of phase 3 of the incomes policy? Will my right hon. Friend make it perfectly clear now, well in advance of the autumn, that the present Government do not propose to be browbeaten by Mr. Hugh Scanlon or by any other leading member of the TUC?[AN HON. MEMBER: "Confrontation."]
The hon. Gentleman says "confrontation". If there is to be a confrontation, it is quite obvious that it does not come from the Government. What we have regretted—and the Leader of the Opposition has joined me in this—is that Mr. Scanlon is not apparently now to be able to take part in the continuing talks with the TUC. He shares the view, which we both share, that it would be more effective if he were able to do so, and I wish that he were.
I have read the article concerned, and it seemed to me that Mr. Scanlon was making an important point, which is that both British management and British workers need to do more about investment, and that profit is also necessary for investment. The form of his criticism was that profits are being made but that people cannot yet see a return in investment.
It behoves management and firms generally to point out the investment plans that they are carrying through, in exactly the same way, for example, as British Leyland did when it announced its own vast scheme.
If by any chance the Prime Minister were to find himself on television in the near future, does he realise that the assurance to the British public that food prices are rising because of the world situation would be less than satisfactory? Will he announce to the public when he next makes a broadcast on this subject whether he intends to adopt the Liberal policy of guaranteeing wages against food price increases? Will he tell the British public the next time lie wants to take our policy whether it is a case of theft or borrowing without the owner's consent, or the next time the Prime Minister wants a gift will he thank us for it?
In the talks with the TUC and the CBI these are matters which can be explored in any respect in this way. We are not limited to any particular proposal. Everyone realises that. Therefore, we shall discuss them. What I can tell the British public, as the hon. Gentleman has raised this point, is that what matters is the standard of living, and that the standard of living is expressed in their real disposable income. The figures for this are available. The real disposable income is money in people's hands after allowing for tax changes and price increases.
The real disposable income during the period of office of the Leader of the Opposition rose by 91 per cent. in nearly six years. In the present Government's period of office, three years, it has already risen by 12¾ per cent.
When he next makes a broadcast, will my right hon. Friend reaffirm the undertaking he gave to the House that he wants to see a complete review of the common agricultural policy? This review should include the abolition of import duties on foodstuffs which are not scarce in the world, because such a reduction would have an effect upon food prices.
It is not a question of merely wanting to see a review of the common agricultural policy. This has been agreed by the Community and the review is now taking place at official level, and it will be discussed by the Ministers of Agriculture and, if necessary, by the full Council of Ministers in the autumn. My hon. Friend can be assured that the whole common agricultural policy is under review.
On the figures that the right hon. Gentleman has just quoted, can he deny that, during the period of the total so-called freeze, prices rose a great deal more than incomes and the standard of living fell during that period? Will he now answer the question that I have repeatedly put to him: what are his estimates of the situation for phase 2? Does he think that earnings will outstrip prices or that prices will outstrip earnings in phase 2?
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the figures that I have just given. They show very clearly the considerable improvement in the standard of living in three years over that of his administration in six years. That is what the British people understand.
Secondly, concerning the freeze, there is no freeze. The freeze is a wage increase of £1 plus 4 per cent., which is an average of 8 per cent. In many cases, in the negotiations by trade unions, the lower-paid have benefited—for example, in the Civil Service—and those who are getting the higher wages have been limited to £250. So there is no freeze, and it is a gross distortion of the truth to say that there is a freeze.
The right hon. Gentleman has really distorted the question. Will he now answer it? I asked him whether he could deny that in the freeze, the standstill—phase 1, six months from last November—prices rose more than wages. It is no good ducking that question. Can he deny it, and can he give us his forecast for phase 2?
The right hon. Gentleman knows that forecasts of that kind are never given by any Government.
Concerning the standstill, if the right hon. Gentleman is referring to those particular five months, the rises in non-foodstuffs were minute, as he knows, and the rise in fresh foodstuffs went on. The right hon. Gentleman must not overlook the fact that already a very large number of workers had had their annual settlement before the standstill began and they were benefiting from it. So now they are getting what is not a freeze but an average of 8 per cent. and they are, therefore, benefiting.