No, the very high interest rates, which I regret as much as the hon. Gentleman, are the result of a combination of factors, some of which are international and some of which are domestic. Having put down his question the moment that MLR went up, I would have hoped that the hon. Gentleman would record his pleasure that it has now gone down again.
Does the Secretary of State accept that high interest rates have a bearing on prices charged by smaller business, the retailer in particular? Therefore, does not he accept that part of the price increases which housewives are experiencing today are a result of the Government's very high public service borrowing requirement, which in the past has driven up interest rates and MLR? However, I welcome the recent small reduction in MLR.
Of course increases in lending rates and the cost of borrowing are contributory factors when price increases come about. But the point that I tried to make a moment ago is that we must try to keep a balance over the economy as a whole. We have kept the public sector borrowing requirement firmly in check, we have stuck to our targets with regard to PSBR and our interest rate policy is a contributory factor in those targets being maintained.
The hon. Lady cries "Labour authorities". That enables me to make my second point, which is that different authorities also have different records on the provision of services. The cry of "Labour authorities" is appropriate to them as well. As to specific rate increases, the hon. Gentleman must ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, and not me.