§ Mr. David Nicholson
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps are being taken to improve the quality of economic statistics.
§ Mr. Norman Lamont
On 17 May 1990 my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister then Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced steps to improve the quality of economic statistics, particularly on services, companies and the balance of payments. The measures are now leading to more reliable statistics in these areas and will yield additional improvements over the next year. But if we are to have economic statistics which are sufficiently up to date and reliable, we need to build on those measures and to strengthen some of the key components not covered by them. I have therefore asked the Central Statistical Office to undertake a further programme to strengthen the reliability of statistics on retail sales, consumers' expenditure, industrial and service sector output, producer prices, stockbuilding, the balance of payments, companies' finances and the transactions of financial institutions.
Like the first initiative, these measures are designed to make the early estimates more reliable, thus reducing the 140W Payment appropriations represent 1.14 per cent. of Community GNP, compared with a ceiling of 1.2 per cent. in the own resources decision, leaving a cash margin of around 3–5 billion ecu-£2.4 billion.
The Budget Council rejected most of the European Parliament's amendments and modifications to the Council's first reading draft Budget, adopting a draft Budget broadly in line with its first reading in July, respecting the existing financial perspective ceilings. In rejecting most of the Parliament's proposals the Council was able to put back into the draft Budget a provisional figure of 400 million ecu—£279 million—for technical assistance to the Soviet Union, and a total of 160 million ecu—£111 million—for emergency food and humanitarian aid. The following table summarises the second reading draft Budget, with reference to the financial perspective ceilings:
need for subsequent revisions, and to reduce both discrepancies between the different measures of gross domestic product and the balancing items in the sector accounts. The first improvements in the CSO's statistics resulting from these measures are expected during 1992.
The new measures take account of recommendations from a detailed review of the way balance of payments statistics are collected and compiled. The review, carried out by Mr. Richard Eason, was commissioned as part of the initiative launched by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in May 1990. A copy of Mr. Eason's report and the CSO action plan in response to his recommendations have been deposited in the Library of the House.
The new measures, like some of those announced in May 1990, involve the wider use of existing statutory powers to secure full response and a more evenly shared burden on businesses. They include transfer to the CSO of some data collection previously undertaken mainly for national accounts purposes by the Bank of England.
In implementing the measures the CSO will consult the appropriate bodies and special efforts will be made to ensure that the burdens on businesses are kept to a minimum. A significant part of the extra burden will fall on businesses that currently have few statistical demands made of them, while some reductions will be made to other surveys.
These measures, combined with the CSO's launch today as an executive agency, demonstrate the 141W Government's commitment to bringing about a significant and lasting improvement in the quality of the nation's economic statistics and minimising the burden imposed on business by their collection.