HC Deb 11 May 1964 vol 695 cc23-4
25. Mr. Holt

asked the Minister of Labour what consideration he has given to the publishing of regional cost of living indices, in view of the need for such indices when new wage rates are negotiated by companies moving into development areas.

Mr. Godber

The calculation of separate indices for particular areas was considered in 1951 by the Cost of Living Advisory Committee. The Committee was of the opinion that there would be serious objections to the publication of official indices of retail prices covering different social, economic or regional groups of the community, and recommended that only one official index should be published monthly. This recommendation was accepted by the then Minister of Labour. I have considered the matter again, but I am not satisfied as to the need to take a different view.

Mr. Holt

May I urge the right hon. Gentleman to look at this matter again? Is he aware that, as regards London, for instance, it has often been the practice to take into account in settling wages and salaries the greater cost of living in London? In the proper development of a regional policy, having regard to the need to attract firms into areas where there is unemployment now, would not a regional cost of living index be an extremely useful weapon?

Mr. Godber

It is for that reason that I was ready to consider this matter again, but the hon. Gentleman will realise that there are considerable difficulties here. For instance, although one may talk of London on its own, if one thinks in terms of the London and south-eastern region, there are many areas in the south-eastern part of the region, for instance, where costs are not nearly so high as they are in London. Therefore, one might create more confusion than one eliminated.