§ Mr. Soames
To ask the Prime Minister what plans he has to improve the quality, substance and accuracy of economic and commercial statistics available to Her Majesty's Government.
§ The Prime Minister
A comprehensive statement on the current state of official economic statistics was submitted by the Central Statistical Office to the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee on Wednesday 24 October 1990 —HC 671, Session 1989–90.
The memorandum gave details of an important package of measures to improve the reliability of economic data which the Central Statistical Office is now implementing. I announced this package to the House as Chancellor of the Exchequer on 17 May 1990, Official Report, column 172. It is directed towards improving the quality of both the gross domestic product and the balance of payments estimates. In this context it has three major objectives:
- (i) Reducing revisions to early estimates of both gross domestic product and the overseas current account by extending the range of quarterly sources;
- (ii) Improving the accuracy and coherence of the measurement of gross domestic product through strengthening the weaker elements in the estimates;
- (iii) Improving the accuracy and coherence of the financial accounts including the overseas or balance of payments accounts.
For details of the measures being undertaken, in order to achieve these aims, I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Wray) by the Economic Secretary on 13 May, Official Report, columns 19–21. Further and more detailed information appeared in an article, titled "Improving Economic Statistics—The Chancellor's Initiative", in the February 1991 edition of "Economic Trends" which is available in the House of Commons Library.
The Government attach great importance to the need for reliable economic statistics and will consider further measures to maintain and improve the quality of economic data as the need arises.