HC Deb 21 October 1954 vol 531 cc1368-9
23. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he proposes to take in the near future to reduce the high cost of living.

Mr. Maudling

The cost of living depends on many factors which cannot be dealt with adequately in reply to a Parliamentary Question and some of which are outside the Government's control.

The Government, for their part, will continue their various policies designed to provide stable economic conditions and so prevent inflation from forcing up prices. But any positive reduction of the cost of living must come, in the main, from reductions of costs and from increases in productivity, which are primarily the task of both sides of industry.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Minister aware that that is an evasive answer and that the present policy of the Government is denying millions of poor people access to the necessities of life? Will he take steps to rectify that situation?

Mr. Maudling

I cannot accept either of the assertions of fact contained in that supplementary question.

Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport

Is not the situation much better today than it was during the years of Socialist misrule?

Mrs. Mann

The hon. Gentleman says that a reduction in the cost of living can only be accomplished through increased productivity. How is it, then, that although we have had increased productivity in the past year it was accompanied by an increase in the cost of living?

Mr. Maudling

The fact is that in the last 18 months the cost of living has gone up three points, which compares very well indeed with the record of the previous Government.

Mr. Jay

If a reduction in the cost of living is outside the power of the Government, why did the Government make the promises they did at the last election?

Mr. Maudling

It is difficult to answer supplementary questions based on a misinterpretation of what I clearly said.

24. Dr. Stross

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the value, in terms of the present index, of the cost of living of the sum of 10s. in 1944, 1934 and 1924.

Mr. Maudling

Taking the internal purchasing power of 10s. as 10s. in 1924, 1934 and 1944, it is estimated that the corresponding figures in September, 1954, would be approximately 4s. 10d., 3s. 11d., and 6s. 6d. respectively.

This estimate is based on the cost of living index for the period before 1938, the consumer price index for 1938–53, and the interim index thereafter.

Dr. Stross

Does the Minister not agree that two things are shown by his answer, first, the inadequacy of social insurance payments today and, secondly, how desirable it is that, in future, they should be permanently pinned to the cost of living?

Mr. Maudling

I think it shows that when the cost of living rises people whose incomes are fixed feel the effect, and that certainly was true under the previous Administration.

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