I have been asked to provide a timeline for the Retail Prices Index (RPI) showing the events leading up to the current situation. This is a first – and tentative – attempt; comments and additions are welcome and should be sent to me at [email protected]
Because the brief was to explain what happened that led to the current situation this timeline is inevitably partial. (A fuller account of how the RPI evolved is given in the following book:“The Retail Prices Index: A Short History” by Jeff Ralph, Robert O’Neill and Paul A. Smith.)
A list of sources used is at the end.
1956. RPI first compiled following the interim RPI which had started in 1947. Advisory Committee recommended it should be based on budgets from “households within income ranges which would include practically all wage earners and most small and medium salary earners” This explains why high income households and pensioners with 75% of their income from the old age pension and other benefits were excluded, exclusions which still exist. Prime use of the index expected to be for wage bargaining. RPI was the responsibility of the Ministry for Labour and National Service (later Department of Employment).
1956 -1994. RPI published monthly. Retail Prices Index Advisory Committee convened periodically, first by Minister of Labour/Employment, latterly by Chancellor of the Exchequer. Last such committee reported in 1994.
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