Select Committee on Treasury Minutes of Evidence

Letter to the Clerk of the Sub-committee from the National Statistician

  I am replying to your letter of 20 November on behalf of the Treasury Sub-committee asking for further information following the oral evidence I gave on 16 November.

  Your first question concerned the details of the consultation process being undertaken on the Code of Practice. An early version of the code was discussed extensively with Heads of Profession for Statistics in government departments in the early autumn. Following that consultation I sent a copy of the code to Sir Richard Wilson and Permanent Secretary colleagues.

  When the code is ready for public consultation our plans are for that consultation to be extensive. We will be following the Cabinet Office guidelines for public consultation which requires the consultation to last at least 12 weeks. We will be sending copies of the Code to and seeking the views of the Statistics Commission, the Royal Statistical Society, the Society of Business Economists and the Statistics Users Council and its user groups as well as other interested bodies. The draft code will be placed on the National Statistics web site and all individuals who have so far registered an interest in National Statistics consultations on the site will be invited to comment.

  The second question relates to the outcome of the spending review. I think that the difficulty perceived by the committee over the ONS budget is a result of the reducing cost profile as work on the Census winds down. Net expenditure for the ONS (after deducting expected income) for 2003-04 is planned at £126m compared with £136m in the current year. However, current year spending includes £45m for the census compared with £6m in 2003-04. The full set of figures is:

Total ONS
of which 2001 Census
ONS excluding Census

  These figures are in cash terms: ie ONS will need to make provision for inflation from within these figures. Excluding the Census the ONS budget shows a real terms increase in resources in 2003-04 compared to 2000-01. This reflects this year's Spending Review settlement which provided additional resources mainly for PAT 18 but also for improvements to the infrastructure and statistical outputs.

4 December 2000

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