Retail Prices Index (Error)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:48 am on 18th December 1987.

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Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea 10:48 am, 18th December 1987

The error was made within the Civil Service. If the House would appreciate some background, I shall provide it as briefly as I can. In 1983 it was decided to computerise the Department's compilation of the RPI to avoid a great deal of manual and clerical effort and to improve and make the process more accurate. In June 1985 it was decided to modify part of the software system to speed up the process. It was undertaken in-house, and the new procedures began to be used in February 1986. In writing the modified programme a mistake was made. Insufficient computer space was made available for calculating the price changes for certain items. As a result, the price changes were recorded as whole numbers only and the decimal places were not carried forward. Without going into inordinate length—