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Cost Of Living Indices

Volume 476: debated on Wednesday 28 June 1950

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many Colonies possess and publish index numbers in respect of cost of living; why such an index number is not published in Nigeria; and on what bases wage and salary increases have been granted in Nigeria and other Colonies where index-numbers are not published.

Twenty-seven Colonial Governments publish index numbers relating to cost of living. The preparation of a reliable index in a Colony like Nigeria presents many difficult problems, particularly the wide variations in prices and expenditure patterns between one area and another. The war-time index was discontinued in 1946 as it was found to be unsatisfactory. Preliminary work on a new index is now in hand.

Cost of living indices are not, of course, the sole basis on which wage and salary increases are decided. The material put forward by trade unions and staff associations in support of their claims, together with the general economic conditions of a territory are the usual basis on which decisions are made.

Is the Minister aware that in other comparable areas these indices had been established, and does he not realise that at some time this method of computing the value of wages and the standard by which wages will be judged will certainly be reached, so why cannot it be done now?

I only said that it was rather difficult to establish one in Nigeria. We certainly have that in mind.

In the case of Colonies where indices of that kind are not available will the Minister tell us if proper statistics are kept and, if not, will he take steps to see that proper statistics are kept which can be made the basis for such index figures? In colonies where such index figures are kept, would he tell us if the indices are computed on the same basis as that which we have in this country?

Will the Minister say whether the basis for the compilation of the indices of cost of living is to be broadened, as in some Colonies rent, for example, is not taken into account?

Can my right hon. Friend say whether steps are now being taken to try to secure this very necessary basis, and if not will this be done in the near future?

May I have an answer to my question which was relative to the main question and was, I submit, a proper question to be answered.