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Industrial Peace, Vol. 7 (Classic Reprint)

Industrial Peace, Vol. 7 (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from Industrial Peace, Vol. 7

A few months ago a committee representative of the Labour movement was appointed to investigate the causes of the rise in the cost of living, and it is expected that at least an interim report will be submitted to the Trade Union Congress, which will have met before these lines appear in print. We welcome the investigation for two reasons. In the first place the charge is frequently made against the Labour party that it has offered no practicable alternative to the present economic policy of the Government. For it is argued that to express the ultimate intention of substituting State ownership for private competitive enterprise is not to provide any constructive policy for immediate application; and that if the Labour party achieved a majority and took up the reins of government in the near future, it would be forced, by the necessities of the case, to continue the policy pursued by the present administration. The first condition of successful constructive effort is accurate knowledge of the present situation and the factors responsible for its creation. In the second place the enquiry provides a test of sincerity and capacity. An ex parte statement, based upon 'selected' evidence, or resulting from sheer inability to interpret evidence honestly sought, would produce more harm than good; but a document which was scientific in the true sense of the term, distinguishing the inevitable from the avoidable, would enhance the reputation of the Labour movement. Nor is it unlikely that the Committee will rise to the level of its opportunity and responsibility. It is fairly strong, and includes economists accustomed to gather and to weigh evidence.

We hope that in its report the Committee will first of all examine the existing methods of measuring changes in the level of prices. A considerable section of industrial workers - particularly of local leaders - profoundly mistrust the present official index number, which is accepted by arbitration tribunals and Government departments in dealing with applications for advances in wages. There should be, above all things, confidence in the departmental enquiries upon which the results are based, and it is therefore of the first importance that the Committee should bring these enquiries under review and either criticise or approve them.

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