ON THIS DAY 1970: Up to £2 10s more on our food bills

Archive front page: Evening News 10 Feb 1970 Archive front page: Evening News 10 Feb 1970

Monday, February 10, 2014
2:09 PM

As part of a new daily online series we look back on what was making the news on this day in Norfolk. Today, we look at the Evening News front page of February 10th, 1970.

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The housewife with £10 a week to spend on food - about the present average for a three-child family - will eventually be asking her husband for up to £2 10s. A week extra, perhaps even more, to pay common market prices.

This, it emerges from the White Paper published this afternoon, is what she will need if she wants to feed her family at the same level - but the chances are that she will turn to cheaper foods.

The retail price of food when Britain is a member of the Community might be 18% to 26% higher than it would otherwise have been, a rise of 3s 7d to 5s 2d in the pound.

This, resulting in a 4% - 5% rise in the cost of living index, would be spread over a period of years, with the full effect being felt only at the end. The effect on the shopping basket is one of the things the White Paper finds difficult to predict. But the food bill would go up, and the ris in prices would lead to higher wages.

Switches

“The increases for some products would differ markedly from those hiterto experienced,” the White Paper points out. “In the main, the changes would switch from one food product to another, and, spead over a period of years, would result in food consumption going up more slowly that it otherwise would have done.”

Allowing for changes in consumption and the move to cheaper foods, overall expenditure on food is estimated to go up by 15% to 22%, compared with what would happen if Britain stayed out.

Prices Now

Tables in the White Paper give differences in food prices last October. They show that Common Market housewives paid, in general, more for meat, cheese, butter, sugar and bread. Sometimes they paid considerably more than 26% extra.

Only when it came to milk did British prices come well up to the Common Market average. Last year it was 11d a pint here (the same as in Germany), compared to 10d a pint in Belgium and the Netherlands, 9d in France and 1s in Italy.

Steak in Belgium costs 15s 4d lb, compared with the 8s 7d for boned sirloin here. Among Common Market countries beef was cheapest in Germany, where somewhat similar joint of boneless hind costs 9s 4d.

Millions

The cost to Britain, nationally, of entering the Common Market could be between £100 million and £1100 million on her balance of payments, says the White Paper. The actual cost - ignoring the benefits - is likely to lie well within the extremes of the range.

The area of greater probability depends on qualitative judgement in which three main factors must be taken into account:

• The largest component figure - £670 million, our theoretical maximum contribution to the “Six” - overstates the position, because no account has been taken of the effect on Britain of special arrangements made by the “Six” for themselves late last year;

• It has not been possible to estimate the dynamic effects on industry or on trade because this depends on the vigour of British industry in exploiting its chances;

• And the conclusion that the tariff changes would have an adverse effect may well be too pessimistic in the long run.

Agriculture

“Nevertheless,” says the White Paper, “after allowing for all these qualifications, it is clear that any assessment of the economic effects of membership of an enlarged Community must include a substantial and continuing balance of payments cost, notably that arising from the common agricultural policy and its financing, which must be set against the substantial economic benefits expected from the dynamic effects of membership as well as the expected increase in invisible earnings.”

Britain’s annual contribution to the Community’s budget would fall within the “purely theoretical and extremely wide range” of £150 million to £670 million.

“Where in that range our contributions might lie depends partly on the growth of total community expenditures and partly on the rules for the division of contributions between countries...”

The effect of this on Britain could not be estimated because members of the Six reached agreement last year on special rules governing their share of contributions which took no account of possible new members.

Up? Down?

Nor could it be estimated what share of payments Britain would receive from various sections of the Community budget as Common Market policies developed. However, Britain’s annual receipts from the operation of the common agricultural policy might amount - “in very round figures” - to £50 million to £100 million, depending on the way policy developed.

This is borne out in the White Paper, which says that the change in the cost of Britain’s food imports - excluding any levies - could range from a reduction of £85 million to an increase of £255 million a year.

The figures were obtained by making alternative assumptions about the differences between British and Community prices and about the responses to them bu British farmers and consumers.

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