Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220
THURSDAY 16 NOVEMBER 2000
220. That is a core role?
(Sir John Kingman) Yes.
221. And if you felt that the National Statistician
was not up to the job would you be able to report that to Parliament?
(Sir John Kingman) We can report anything which is
relevant to statistics and the work of the National Statistician
is obviously central to National Statistics, so if we find ourselves
advising Ministers on the work of the National Statistician, that
advice will be published.
222. Turning to the Commission's budget and
staffing resources, to what degree is your programme of work constrained
by the quite small budget amount?
(Sir John Kingman) We will obviously operate within
the budget that we have been allocated. If we come to feel that
the budget is inadequate to do what we feel needs to be done we
shall say so, but I expect to get a lot of the work done, for
instance, within ONS, a lot of the work done by outside contract,
and I believe that the budget that we have been initially assigned
will enable us to do quite a lot. Whether it will enable us to
do enough is something that time will tell but we shall not hesitate
to advise Ministers if we think that they could usefully put more
money into our budget.
223. The Treasury is the sponsoring department
for the Commission. Is there not a tension here in terms of demonstrating
(Sir John Kingman) The Treasury has so far been extremely
helpful. Remember that we have set up this organisation from nothing;
it is completely new. We have started absolutely from the ground
up and we have had a great deal of help from the Treasury in doing
that. The Treasury accepts that as we become more established
we will want to detach ourselves as far as that is practical from
the Treasury so as to demonstrate independence, so that you can
rely on our giving views which are not simply parroting the Treasury's
views. Whether that will prove to be in practice in conflict with
the Treasury's role in providing us with our budget is something
that time will tell. We intend to form our own views and they
may or may not agree with the views that are formed in the Treasury.
We shall not hesitate to give our views and to make those views
public even if that leads us into conflict on occasion with the
Treasury. I have no reason at the moment to suppose that this
will be a problem. If it turns out to be a problem we shall say
224. Finally, in a similar vein, three of the
Commission staff are seconded civil servants, I understand. Again,
why not make more use of the private sector to demonstrate a strong
(Sir John Kingman) We are already going out to open
advertisement for the next appointment that we make and I think
that is important, but I do not think you should underestimate
the professionalism of the civil servants who have been seconded
to the Commission. I am quite sure that they will, while they
are working for the Commission, show the same independence that
the Commissioners will show. Remember that the decisions, for
instance on the work programme, the decisions on the reports that
we make, the views that we form, will be the decisions of the
eight Commissioners and not the decisions of the staff of the
Commission. I am quite sure that the Commissioners are people
of completely independent mind who will not be afraid to say unpopular
things if they think they are the right things to say.
Chairman: Sir John, thank you very much indeed.