Orders of the Day — Cost of Living

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd March 1955.

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Photo of Mr Moss Turner-Samuels Mr Moss Turner-Samuels , Gloucester 12:00 am, 23rd March 1955

It is evident that hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot look these plain facts in the face. They are always producing an academic barrage or some sort of artificial thesis in order to hide the facts. What I was saying is irrefutable. It is that because of the high cost of living wages have had to be increased. [Laughter.] I will put it again. It is no laughing matter. Primarily, wages have had to be raised for millions of workers for no other reason than the burden of the cost of living, which the ordinary worker and his family could not sustain. No academic barrage from the Government benches can possibly hide that established fact.

What the Government and the Tory Party will do in this case will no doubt follow the line of what they have done before. Their method looks like bringing another 1931. We shall get a financial crisis and then wages will be pulled down at once and there will be a reduction in the standard of life. Then what will be said about plentiful food, about savings, and about the ability of people to pay for the cost of living? That will happen, because that is according to well-practised Tory pattern. The end-product of Tory policy is always that the standard of the mass of the people is brought down. It has happened before and, if the present Government get back into power, it will assuredly happen again.

Let us look at the Tory election manifesto of 1951. It said that "the greatest national misfortune was the ever-falling value of our money." What have the Government done about it? The true answer is that all they have done is to increase the misfortune. That is a very poor result, both of their promises at the General Election and of their performance as a Government since. The Minister tried to get away with statistics. When there is a complicated, difficult or bad case it is always a good idea to complicate it a bit more by statistics. Figures can be much like law. Montaigne once said: There is law sufficient everywhere to argue both pro and con. Anybody who wants to hide his case conveniently gets hold of some statistics—the more statistics the better—and buries the true facts under them.

The fact, however, is that basic food costs have gone up more than 40 per cent. since 1951. Anybody who examines the graph will see how the figures have soared. For a family of four, the increase over 1951 in basic prices of food in January, 1953, was 23 per cent. By January, 1954, the cost had gone up to 33 per cent. and by October, 1954, by 40 per cent. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where do those figures come from?"]

They are from the research department of "Reynolds News"—[Interruption.]—and the official figures confirm them. That cannot possibly be denied. Those are official figures.

The comparison in the cost of bread, milk, eggs, potatoes and lard and other foods has already been given and I do not propose to repeat that. The lists for October, 1951, and October, 1954, show that the food which cost £1 11s. 10d. in 1951 cost £2 13s. 0½d. in 1954. Those are the facts. The Minister, of course, does not face it, but it is the difficulty which, at the present time, the country has to face.