§ 12. Mr. Latham
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will make a statement on the administrative arrangements regarding the collection of statistics for the retail prices index.
First, I acknowledge the valuable contribution of the Public Accounts Committee's carefully considered report on the retail prices index. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the important personal role that he played on the PAC when it looked at this issue. In close co-operation with the Central Statistical Office, which has responsibility for the RP1, the employment service is taking action to ensure that the data are comprehensive and accurate by introducing targets for collection offices, tighter management controls over the collection of data, and better guidance for collectors.
§ Mr. Latham
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks and for his full response. Is he aware that nothing could be more important to pensioners than for the retail prices index connection to be given high priority in the work of the Department of Employment? As the permanent secretary to his Department suggested to the Public Accounts Committee that this work could be privatised, does my hon. Friend have anything to say in that regard?
I assure my hon. Friend that we do not believe that any bias arose from deficiencies in the figures. However, we certainly acknowledge the priority of this work for the employment service. The question of how this sort of information is collected is kept under review, and on that point I shall keep in touch with my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Cryer
While prices are very important to pensioners, are not wages also important? As the Government have boasted about the booming economy, why, when they came to office, did they deliberately destroy the link between pensions and wages? In effect, they have each year robbed every pensioner in this country of hundreds of pounds of rightful income that was provided under Labour.
This is, of course, a matter for the Department of Social Security. I seem to remember that, when it was in government, the Labour party found it difficult to sustain the link.