HC Deb 23 November 1950 vol 481 cc477-8
1. Mr. Osborne

asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a decision on the new cost-of-living index basis as an absolute priority.

7. Mr. Vosper

asked the Minister of Labour when he intends to replace the interim index of retail prices with a more permanent and up-to-date measure of the cost of living.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Isaacs)

As I informed the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) on 2nd May, the replacement of the present interim index will involve, as a first step, the collection of a series of family budgets of expenditure. The matter is under constant review and, as soon as conditions are considered to be appropriate, steps will be taken to carry out a new budget inquiry.

Mr. Osborne

Is the Minister not aware that the 350,000 workers who had their wages reduced recently regard the present index as unsatisfactory? Since the old index was abolished three years ago, cannot he make a promise that we shall have a satisfactory index in three months' time? Three years is too long to wait.

Mr. Isaacs

That same 350,000 made no complaint three months back when their wages were increased.

Mr. Vosper

What does the Minister mean when he speaks of when conditions are satisfactory for a family budget survey to be carried out?

Mr. Isaacs

At the present time, with the really unsettled conditions of wages, prices and so on, I do not think it would he wise to take it up at the moment.

Mr. Assheton

Is not the real difficulty that, whatever items are put in the cost-of-living index, there is a great temptation to the Government to subsidise those particular elements, instead of spreading the subsidies more generally over a whole range of articles?

Mr. Isaacs

I do not think that comes into the picture. This inquiry will be undertaken by completely independent persons, and will be similar to what was done under previous Governments. The House must face the fact that the pattern of living of our people is changed. Things which were regarded in the old days as luxuries in the working man's family are today absolutely essential.