19. Mr. Lee
asked the Minister of Labour on what date the Scientific Committee last met to discuss the Index of Retail Prices.
§ Mr. Watkinson
The Retail Prices Index Technical Committee last met on 29th February, 1952, but there was subsequent correspondence with the members, concerning the plans for the household expenditure inquiry. The Cost of Living Advisory Committee last met on 3rd November, 1952, for the purpose of giving final approval to these plans.
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the scientific committee, which reported in March, 1952, asked for certain new weightings which they described as "temporary expedients" of only approximate merit? Would he not agree that since then there has been a most revolutionary movement because of the slashing of £100 million of food subsidies, which means for the foods which normally have to be bought most often—as people have to eat three times a day—that the weighting system is probably now obsolete? Would it not be a very good thing if the Minister were to call the Committee together and ask for the relevance of these weightings in the changed conditions which obtain, owing to the action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
§ Mr. Watkinson
We always keep this Index under review and we shall be only too pleased to look at any time at any matters raised by the hon. Gentleman. I hope that the underlying inference is not that this is some sort of false index. It is as accurate as any impartial body can possible make it. It is just as well to establish that, because as I have already said, three million workers depend upon it. It has never, in its long history, been attacked on the ground that it is either unfair or inaccurate.