HC Deb 21 December 1937 vol 330 cc1789-91W
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.

Item. 1st June, 1933. 1st December. 1937.
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
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 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.