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Palestine (Retail Prices)

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 24 March 1943

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what has been the increase in retail prices in Palestine since the outbreak of war; and what measures have been taken by the Administration to prevent an undue increase in the cost of living and to meet such increase as has already arisen?

The general economic problem in Palestine is inseparable from that of the Middle East area as a whole, which was dealt with in an answer given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor) on 17th March. The retail price of essential foodstuffs in Palestine has risen some 150 per cent. above pre-war levels, wages of the lowest paid classes of workers having risen accordingly. Steps taken and in contemplation by the Government of Palestine include the subsidisation of the cost of essential foodstuffs, the improvement of distribution by bulk purchase and rationing measures, extension of communal feeding, and, as in this country, the increase of taxation on those able to bear it, in order to absorb some of the excess purchasing power which is one of the aggravating factors in the situation.

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that frequently rationed foods are not obtainable at the prices fixed and that the real earnings of workers are something like 25 per cent. less than pre-war? Will he ask the Administration to take measures to prevent that sort of thing?

I will certainly convey that. The Government there have had this matter under close review, and steps have been taken to raise the wages of the lower-paid workers.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware of the allegations that at Tel-Aviv prices are higher than elsewhere in Palestine, and will he inquire why prices should go up in that particular area?

If there is a shortage in Palestine, is it not desirable that wages and other costs should not be increased any further, otherwise there will be inflation?