§ Mr. Lambert
asked the Minister of Labour whether he will give the cost of living figures, specifying the various items at the lowest cost in the last five years, together with the number of unemployed at that date, with the latest comparable figures of the cost of living and the number of unemployed, and the increase in aggregate wage-rates between the two periods?
§ Mr. E. Brown
The lowest cost of living index figure recorded during the past five years was at 1st May and 1st June, 1933, when the figure was 36 per cent. above the level of July, 1914. The following table shows the index figures for the various items included at 1st June, 1933, and 1st December, 1937, the figures for July, 1914, being taken as = 100.1790W
Item. 1st June, 1933. 1st December. 1937. Food: Beef, British— Ribs 141 146 Thin Flank 112 118 Beef, Chilled or Frozen— Ribs 122 134 Thin Flank 94 105 Mutton, British— Legs 141 155 Breast 115 124 Mutton, Frozen— Legs 132 152 Breast 88 104 Bacon 102 137 Fish 190 200 Flour 113 153 Bread 127 163 Tea 115 145 Sugar (granulated) 115 126 Milk 156 199 Butter— Fresh 90 122 Salt 80 115 Cheese 103 128 Margarine 86 93 Eggs (fresh) 87 212 Potatoes 106 129 All the above 114 146 Rent (including rates) 156 159 Clothing 185 210 Fuel and Light: Coal 175 195–200 Gas 145–150 145–150 Fuel and Light* 165–170 180–185 Other Items Included† 170–175 175 All above items 136 160 * Coal, gas, oil, candles, matches. † Soap, soda, domestic ironmongery, brush-ware, pottery, tobacco, fares and newspapers.
The increase shown by the figures for "All items" is between 17 and 18 per cent.
The number of persons registered at Employment Exchanges in Great Britain as unemployed at 22nd May, 1933, was 2,582,879. At 15th November, 1937, the number of unemployed persons on the registers was 1,499,203. Comparison of these figures is to some extent affected, however, by changes which were made in September, 1937, in the procedure for counting the unemployed, as a result of which persons subsequently found to be in employment at the date of the count are excluded from the totals. Information is not available as to the number of persons in employment at 15th November, 1937, excluded from the count under the new procedure, but at 13th September 1791W the change reduced the total figure by over 49,000, or about 3.6 per cent.
On the basis of the information in the possession of the Department, relating mainly to rates of wages fixed by collective agreements or by statutory orders, it is estimated that weekly full-time rates of wages rose by nearly 9 per cent. between 1st June, 1933, and 1st December, 1937. These figures take no account of changes in actual earnings due to reductions in short-time working, or to increased overtime, as to which statistics are not available, but in view of the improvement in employment between the two dates, the average increase in actual weekly earnings must have been considerably more than that in rates of wages.