HC Deb 09 November 1939 vol 353 cc384-5
4. Mr. Higgs

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the complete information on which he was to base the new cost-of-living index figure was collected by July, 1938; and whether he can now make a statement thereon?

Mr. E. Brown

The collection of information for this purpose was not completed until October, 1938, and in many cases correspondence with the households who had supplied information was subsequently found necessary on points of doubt or difficulty, disclosed by a scrutiny of the budgets received. As my hon. Friend will realise, the analysis of the very large amount of information obtained by an investigation of so detailed and comprehensive a character—comprising 50,000 budgets giving complete particulars of weekly expenditure and over 150,000 returns relating to weekly expenditure on clothing—must inevitably occupy a considerable time. Every effort, however, is being made to expedite the progress of the work and to enable a summary of the main results of the inquiry, giving the particulars required for a revision of the basis of the cost-of-living index number, to be completed at the earliest possible date.

Mr. Hiģģs

Is my right hon. Friend aware that wage rates are being based to a very great extent on the index figure; and is it not imperative that it should: be revised at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. Brown

We had that and other things in mind 18 months ago when we decided to do this very formidable thing on a wider scale than it has been done in any other country.

Mr. T. Smith

Can the Minister say what obstacles are in the way of a quick decision in view of the fact that during the last 12 months repeated questions have been put down?

Mr. Brown

It is not a matter for consideration, but it is a matter of the extra physical and mental work of dealing with millions of entries. The individual entries about particular items of expenditure run into millions.