§ 17. Mr. G. Darling
asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that the range of incomes and expenditures on which the current retail price index is based is proving in practice to b too wide to produce an average index that accurately reflects cost of living changes for the majority of wage earners; and whether he will adjust the weighting of the index to the average expenditures of wage earners whose weekly pay was under £12 a week in 1953.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
No, Sir. The index is based on recommendations made by the Cost of Living Advisory Committee after full consideration of this and other problems and I am not aware of any reasons for rejecting its advice on this matter.
§ Mr. Darling
But is the Minister aware that a large number, probably the majority of wage earners, who are getting less than the national average, are under the impression, rightly or wrongly, that the index does not relate to their living conditions? May it not be that the Advisory Committee made a mistake in spreading the wages for the purposes of the inquiry too widely, going up to £20 a week? Would not the right hon. Gentleman follow my suggestion, which would at least test the validity of the index?
§ Mr. Macleod
The Cost of Living Advisory Committee, which was widely representative, considered the point that 1377 the hon. Member has mentioned. It is arguable, no doubt, that the present wage spread for the index is too large, although the higher incomes and the lower are alike excluded, as the hon. Member knows. But surely if one takes the hon. Member's solution—which is that it should be limited to those under £12 a week—when average earnings in the country are now approaching that figure, one could not argue that if one studied only the budgets of those at or below the average one would obtain a typical picture of the country's households.