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Statistics Board

Volume 459: debated on Friday 20 April 2007

The Statistics and Registration Service Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, will establish an independent statistics board that is outside ministerial control and reports to Parliament. The board will have statutory responsibilities to promote and safeguard the production and publication of official statistics that serve the public good, and the quality and comprehensiveness of those statistics.

To ensure that the funding arrangements for the new board reinforce statutory independence, the Government have taken the decision to set funding for the statistics board outside of the normal spending review process, and to guarantee the board funding certainty over a period of five years. The 2007 Budget announced the funding settlement of £1.2 billion over the next five years for the new statistics board. The settlement applies to the years 2007-08 to 2011-12 and provides planning and funding certainty for the development of the new board and the effective discharge of its remit from the intended establishment of the new system by spring 2008.

The Bill provides for the Government’s intention that the board will be constituted by a majority of external, non-executive members selected through open competition. As I announced at Second Reading of the Bill, 8 Jan 2007, Official Report, column 35, the Government’s aim is—

“to have appointed a shadow chair, with appropriate support for that chair, before the start of the new system, so that many of the crucial aspects of planning for the implementation can be steered and led by that shadow chair. I hope that the appointment will be made during the course of this year.

Given the importance of having these non-executive positions filled at an early stage the Treasury is starting the recruitment process for the chair and non-executive directors of the new board.

Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £305,500 for this new body will be sought in the main estimate for the Treasury. However, no expenditure from within this voted provision will take place until Parliament has also approved the Statistics and Registration Service Bill. Pending that approval, this expenditure will be met by a repayable cash advance from the contingencies fund. This expenditure will be met from within the Treasury’s existing budgetary provision and does not imply an increase in its Departmental expenditure limit.