asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is in a position to make a statement regarding the increase in the cost of living in Cyprus and the efforts taken to minimise the hardship this involves for workers on low wages?
Yes, Sir. Owing to war conditions the cost of living in Cyprus is estimated to have risen by 142 per cent. as compared with 1939. In order to meet this situation, wages have been increased throughout the Colony. In the case of Government employees they have been doubled, while the working day has been reduced from nine to eight hours. Measures have also been taken against inflation. The Government have assumed complete control over all essential imports, which are distributed at fixed prices on a rationed basis, and the price of bread, which is the staple food of the people, has been pegged by means of a subsidy. This system of control was some time ago extended to certain local products, and a Committee was appointed by the Governor to consider what further steps could be taken. This Committee has just reported. Its recommendations, which include one for the extension of subsidies to other vital commodities, have all been accepted by the Cyprus Government and I have approved them. The cost, which will be-approximately £124,000 a year, will be met by His Majesty's Government through an increase in the grant-in-aid to the Cyprus Government, and it is estimated that as a result the cost of living, which has already fallen 10 points since December, will be reduced by a further 15 points.
Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman bear in mind that owing to the pre-war standard of living in Cyprus, it is impossible to allow anything in the nature of a fall in that standard at the present time and will he safeguard the position by seeing that wages are adequate to meet the increased cost?
Certainly, but I would however point out that the percentage of people employed in purely industrial undertakings is very small and that the great majority: are peasant proprietors whose economic position has been vastly improved by the war.
Could the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say in addition to the increased cost of living what the increases in wages are?
I did say.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the approximate wages paid now, and during 1939, for unskilled and skilled labour in Cyprus, and the price of bread, olives, beans, meat and wheat for the same periods; and whether he is satisfied that the official cost-of-living figures are a reliable index?
The statistical information for which the hon. Member asks is not yet available. I have telegraphed to Cyprus for it and will communicate it to him as soon as it is received. The official cost-of-living index figure is compiled in accordance with the recommendations of a committee of experienced officers in Cyprus, who were throughout assisted by an officer from the Industrial Relations Department of the Ministry of Labour and National Service. I have no reason to suppose that it is not a reliable guide to variations in the cost of living in Cyprus.
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that in fact certain information has reached this country regarding the cost of living which does seem to indicate that the official index needs more careful scrutiny? Will he therefore look into that point?
I certainly will raise that matter, but it has recently been looked into, and I have no reason to believe that any better index could be found.