Since those figures indicate an increase of about 45 per cent. since June 1970, is the hon. Lady aware of the grave effect that this is having on many people, especially the pensioners, about whom the Government now claim to be so concerned? Is she further aware that possibly within the very near future further measures will be announced by the Government which will have even more disastrous effects on many people? How much longer will it be before the Government stop making excuses and start introducing action, such as subsidising key food commodities on which many people feel that money should be spent, since they should have greater priority than expensive projects like the Concorde and the Channel Tunnel developments?
The hon. Gentleman has referred to the increase in the food price index. He should recognise that that forms part of the cost of living as a whole, which has increased by 32·5 per cent. Bearing in mind that average earnings have increased by 47 per cent. and pensions by 55 per cent. since June 1970, he cannot claim that they have not kept ahead of prices.
Is the hon. Lady aware that of the countries in the OECD the overall increase in prices in Britain has been among the highest of any in the past three years? Is she aware, secondly, that a respected body—the National Institute of Economic and Social Research——only last week advocated food subsidies as an essential element in a policy of restraint, which the Government say they want? Is she aware, thirdly, that the Chairman of the National Farmers Union pointed out only recently that in view of the shortage of food supplies in this country, Government assistance towards subsidies on feed stocks would be helpful in reducing prices?
Dealing with the hon. Lady's first comments, in many of the countries to which she referred the level of food prices is very much higher than in this country in any event. Dealing with her last comments, the President of the National Farmers Union did not refer to the present shortage of food. He said that it was his concern—and he was referring especially to the case of the specialist dairy farmer, who is having temporary difficulties—that there would be difficulties pending the decisions following the annual review.
The effect of the butter subsidy is that butter is 2p per lb less to her. I am not certain of the accurate figure in respect of the milk subsidy, but I shall ensure that my hon. Friend has it. I am concerned that the Opposition seem to have no policy on subsidies. Every time they announce the figure the coverage is wider and the amount has shrunk.