I meet the national statistician regularly once every three months, but I have no plans to discuss with her the policy on the publication of statistics by Government Departments. Departments are expected to follow the code of practice for official statistics that is maintained by the independent UK Statistics Authority.
I thank the Minister for that reply. The ONS has just published the results of the recent census rehearsal, with responses coming in at just 35 per cent., compared with 54 per cent. in 2001. Is not that a major warning sign that the new census is far too long, too intrusive and too much hassle to fill in? Surely the excessive cost of £450 million is totally unacceptable, given the country’s parlous finances.
I refute the hon. Gentleman’s comments on a number of grounds. First, the census pilots are voluntary, and more resources have been invested to ensure that we get accurate and clear responses from people up and down the country in the 2011 census, because we want the best information possible. Secondly, I also think that the cost of the census, which works out to 87p per person per year, is a reasonable amount to pay for the benefit that the census brings to the country.
Is it not the case that there needs to be public acceptability of the level of detail in the 2011 census? Has my hon. Friend had discussions with Jil Matheson about the level of disaggregated data that will be published, the timetable that will be associated with that, and whether full census form information will be published rather earlier than the present limit of 100 years?
I have obviously had discussions with the ONS about ensuring public confidence in the census, although I have not had particular discussions about how long information will remain confidential. I think that 100 years is appropriate, but if my hon. Friend wants to write to me about the matter, I will look at it again.