§ Mr. Lilley
[holding answer 4 December 1989]: Of European Community countries, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal, Denmark and Greece do not include mortgage interest payments in their calculation of the retail prices index. Only Portugal does not include house rent payments.
§ Mr. Lilley
[holding answer 4 December 1989]: Only minor changes have been made to the coverage of the retail prices index since 1979 the most important of which took place at the beginning of 1987 when, following recommendations of the Retail Prices Index Advisory Committee, the index was restructured to incorporate a number of items on which expenditure was relatively small and which had previously been excluded. The items in question were:fees paid by households for educational and recreational courses;subscriptions to trade unions and professional associations;non-food expenditure on pets;fees for medical, dental and optical treatment and the provision of spectacles;premiums for house contents insurance;expenditure on hobbies not covered by any other section of the index.
In addition housing subsidies, which used to be partly included in the calculation of the retail prices index, were excluded from 1987. At the begining of 1989, the coverage of fees was extended to take account of new charges for eye tests and dental checks, and in April 1989 community charge payments were brought into the retail prices index in respect of Scotland in place of domestic rates.
The methods by which the retail prices index has been compiled have remained essentially unchanged. Price changes are obtained for a selection of goods and services and this selection is continually updated in order to maintain the index as a reliable and representative measure of the change in prices across all the goods and services commonly bought by consumers.