The prices of those nationalised industry goods and services included in the Retail Price Index rose by 23·6 per cent. from August 1975 to August 1976, resulting in an increase of about 2 per cent. in the General Index.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that all we get out of the nationalised industries is, on the one hand, large losses from some of them, which the taxpayer has to pay, and from others increased prices, which the consumer has to pay? Is that not an indication that this is a thoroughly unsatisfactory way of running industry?
The large deficits which the nationalised industries faced were due to the Conservative Government's regressive subsidisation of the industries and their refusal to permit them to price commercially or even to move in that direction, as the hon. Gentleman ought to know. The difficulties which have been faced as a result of price increases in the past year are largely due to the phasing out of the deficits.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that it is the height of hyprocrisy for Opposition Members to complain about the losses of nationalised industries and then to criticise those industries and the Government for seeking to make good the losses by charging economic prices? Will my hon. Friend pay regard to the impact of some of the increases and the rate at which they are introduced, particularly on low-income families and the unemployed?
That is a clear illustration of the point I was making earlier—namely, that Labour Governments have to clean up the mess left by their predecessors.
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that the numerous changes in accounting and depreciation policies of some nationalised industries suggest that there is a need of a review of the costing policies of these industries to ensure that the tariffs are not an inequitable form of taxation regardless of the needs of the individual?
Some consideration of the equitability of the tariffs, especially in respect of the gas industry, was undertaken at the behest of my right hon. Friend earlier last year. It is important to recognise that in the year ahead, as a result of the efforts made by the nationalised industries, we can expect a period of relative price stability.