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Office Of Population Censuses And Surveys

Volume 124: debated on Tuesday 15 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services what measures have now been taken to clarify the relationship between the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys and Ministers, and to ensure that the work Office of Population Censuses and Surveys undertakes for customer Departments reflects their requirements, as recommended in the machinery of government review, Official Report, 18 November 1986, columns 86–7.

The relationship between OPCS and Ministers has now been reviewed. It is partly determined by the legal position of the head of OPCS, as Registrar General for England and Wales. The Registrar General has statutory duties relating to the registration of births, marriages and deaths and civil marriage, the carrying out of censuses of population and the collection and publication of statistics between censuses. The registration functions are carried out independently of Ministers, except that the Secretary of State must approve regulations, local schemes for the organisation of the service, and the form of the annual abstract of statistics derived from registration. The duties under the Census and Population Statistics Acts are carried out under the direction of the Secretary of State. OPCS also has important non statutory functions, including carrying out social surveys, maintaining the NHS central register and the processing of statistics about hospital patients.

In 1987–88 OPCS introduced a system under which managers have agreed objectives; work targets and budgets, and performance is monitored against these. Performance is reviewed by Ministers at the end of the financial year, and plans agreed for the next year, having regard to the statutory position of the Registrar General. The budgetary system is now being developed to support this approach better, and to give line managers greater control over expenditure on support services.

The statutory functions of the Registrar General will continue to be funded directly on the OPCS vote, although changes may be made for additional services. In general, non-statutory functions are paid for by customer departments or will be so paid for from 1 April 1988, including social surveys. For these services priorities will therefore be determined by customer departments, who will agree the work to be carried out, its timing and its cost.