House of Commons - Explanatory Note
Statistics And Registration Service Bill - continued          House of Commons

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Clause 45 Power to authorise disclosure to the Board: Scotland

189.     This clause provides Scottish Ministers with the power to make regulations to authorise Scottish public authorities to disclose information to the Board, in the same way, and essentially via the same mechanism, as the Treasury can make regulations to authorise disclosure to the Board in clause 44. Under clause 45 regulations must be made by the Scottish Ministers with the consent of the Treasury. The definition of a Scottish public authority (as set out in clause 64) is that given in the Scotland Act 1998 and means any public body (except the Parliamentary corporation), public office or holder of such an office whose functions are exercisable only in or as regards Scotland.

Clause 46 Power to authorise disclosure to the Board: Northern Ireland

190.     This clause provides a Northern Ireland department with the power to make regulations to authorise Northern Ireland public authorities to disclose information to the Board, in the same way, and essentially via the same mechanism, as the Treasury can make regulations to authorise disclosure to the Board in clause 44. Under clause 44, regulations must be made by the Northern Ireland department with the consent of the Treasury. The definition of a Northern Ireland public authority (clause 64) is a public authority whose functions are exercisable only or mainly in or as regards Northern Ireland and relate only or mainly to transferred matters within the meaning of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 c.47.

Clause 47 Power to authorise use of information by the Board

191.     This clause provides the Treasury with a power to make regulations permitting the Board to use information, received from a public authority through an existing gateway, to carry out its functions (except that of providing statistical services) where there is an existing legal barrier to the Board's use of the information. As with clause 44, the power could be used, for example, to provide the Board with wider access to information to improve the range or quality of the statistics being produced, or to reduce burdens on data providers, by removing the need for the Board to collect duplicate information.

192.     This clause uses the same mechanism as that in clause 44 (described in detail in the note to that clause). As in that clause, regulations must be made with the consent of another Minister of the Crown; the Treasury and the other Minister of the Crown must be satisfied both that the disclosure is required for the Board to carry out the functions for which the disclosure is authorised and that the disclosure is in the public interest.

Clause 48 Power to authorise disclosure by the Board

193.     This clause sets out a mechanism for providing the Board with the power to disclose information held by the Board to other public authorities. The Treasury, with the consent of the Minister of the Crown responsible for the public authority concerned, may make regulations to authorise disclosures of data by the Board for the statistical purposes of the body receiving the data. This is a similar provision to clause 44, which provides a similar mechanism for public authorities to share information with the Board.

194.     Disclosures under this clause could be used to improve the range or quality of the statistics being produced, improving policy-making or resource allocation. Alternatively, it could be used to reduce the burden on data providers; for example individuals or businesses filling in surveys who would otherwise have to provide duplicate information to many different public authorities. Any disclosures provided for using this mechanism would be permissive rather than mandatory; the regulation would authorise the Board to share information, without compelling it to do so.

195.     Subsection (1) provides that the Treasury may make regulations to allow the Board to share information with another public authority (as defined in clause 64), where such sharing would not normally be permitted because of a pre-existing legal barrier to sharing.

196.     The regulations may only remove a barrier contained in the rule of law or an Act which received Royal Assent before this Bill to provide the Board with the lawful authority to share information with a public authority, the regulations may not remove a barrier from either the Data Protection Act 1998 or the Human Rights Act 1998 using this mechanism (clause 51).

197.     Subsection (2) states that the regulations may only permit sharing for the statistical functions of the receiving public authority. Information could not be disclosed under the regulations for other (non-statistical) purposes of the receiving public authority.

198.     Subsection (3) further sets out that the public authority may only use the data received for the functions stated in the regulations. This function could be wide, covering all the statistical activities of the public authority concerned, or narrow, for example relating solely to a particular statistical analysis.

199.     The public authority will not be permitted to disclose information received, other than in the circumstances set out in clause 36(3), with the exception of paragraphs (c) and (h), unless further disclosure is specified for in the regulations. Any such unauthorised usage would breach the confidentiality obligation under clause 36 and could incur the criminal penalties provided therein.

200.     Subsection (9) states that the regulations to allow data sharing must be made with the consent of another Minister of the Crown. The Minister consenting is expected to be the Minister responsible for the public authority receiving the data. For example, if data were to be disclosed to DEFRA, the Secretary of State for that department would need to give his consent. The Treasury and the other Minister of the Crown making the regulations must be satisfied that the data is needed for the statistical purpose stated in the regulation and that the disclosure of such data is in the public interest.

201.     Where the data are being received by a public authority for which the Treasury is the relevant Minister of the Crown, subsection (10) states that no other minister need give consent to the making of the regulation. Subsection (11) sets out that the bodies for which the Treasury has responsibility are those listed in clause 44(11). These bodies include, for example, HMRC, the Bank of England, the FSA and the Royal Mint. Subsection (12) requires the Treasury to consult with the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs before making regulations to allow the Board to disclose data to HMRC.

202.     By way of example, this clause could be used to enable the Board to disclose to Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) information collected under the Statistics of Trade Act 1947. Currently the ONS can disclose information collected under the Statistics of Trade Act 1947 (consisting of the name and address of any trade establishment, the numbers of persons of different description employed there and the nature of the activities carried on there) to an officer of a local planning authority, a planning authority or a development corporation. However, the ONS cannot lawfully disclose the same information to an RDA. This creates a difference in the data available to local and regional bodies. Given the statutory purposes of an RDA, especially that of furthering the economic development and regeneration of an area and of the promotion of business efficiency, investment and competitiveness, access to this data might be considered to be necessary in the public interest.

203.     Regulations made under this provision may provide the Board with a power to disclose information collected under the Statistics of Trade Act 1947 to the RDAs, to give them similar access to that available to local planning authorities. The process for this would be as follows:

  • before making the regulations the Treasury and another Minister of the Crown (the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has residual responsibility for the RDAs) would need to consider the proposed use to which the RDAs would put the data, and would need to be satisfied both that the disclosure is required for the statistical purposes of the RDAs and that such a disclosure would be in the public interest;

  • the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry would need to give consent;

  • the Treasury would then lay the draft regulations before the House of Commons and the House of Lords;

  • Parliament would consider the draft regulations, and decide whether to approve them; and

  • if the draft regulations were approved by each House of Parliament, the Treasury would make the regulations. The Board would then be able to disclose information collected under the Statistics of Trade Act to the RDAs for their statistical purposes, as set out in the regulations.

Clause 49 Power to authorise disclosure by the Board: Scotland

204.     This clause provides Scottish Ministers with the power to make regulations to authorise the Board to disclose information to Scottish public authorities, in the same way, and essentially via the same mechanism, as the Treasury can make regulations to authorise the Board to disclose data in clause 48. Regulations must be made by the Scottish Ministers with the consent of the Treasury. The definition of a Scottish public authority (as set out in clause 64) is that given in the Scotland Act 1998 and means any public body (except the Parliamentary corporation), public office or holder of such an office whose functions are exercisable only in or as regards Scotland.

Clause 50 Power to authorise disclosure by the Board: Northern Ireland

205.     This clause provides Northern Ireland departments with the power to make regulations to authorise the Board to disclose information to Northern Ireland public authorities, in the same way, and essentially via the same mechanism, as the Treasury can make regulations to authorise the Board to disclose data in clause 48. Regulations must be made by the Northern Ireland departments with the consent of the Treasury. The definition of a Northern Ireland public authority (as set out in clause 64) is a public authority whose functions are exercisable only or mainly in or as regards Northern Ireland and relate only or mainly to transferred matters within the meaning of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 c.47.

Clause 51 Data Protection Act 1998 and Human Rights Act 1998

206.     This clause sets out that regulations made under clauses 44 to 50 may not amend the Data Protection Act 1998 or the Human Rights Act 1998.

Clause 52 Cessation of Office for National Statistics etc

207.     This clause establishes that the ONS and the Statistics Commission will no longer exist. The Board will, with the exception of civil registration, assume most of the functions that the ONS currently undertakes. The Board will also take on many of the responsibilities of the Statistics Commission.

Clauses 53 to 55 Transfers etc

208.     Clauses 53 to 55 ensure a continuity of property, rights and liabilities from ONS and the General Register Office to the Board, the Registrar General, the GRO and the National Statistician.

209.     Clause 53 provides for the transfer of property, rights and liabilities from the ONS and the current National Statistician to the Board, with the exception of any property etc that will be identified in a transfer scheme made by the Treasury and transferred to the Registrar General or a Minister of the Crown who will hold it on behalf of the Registrar General.

210.     Clause 54 provides for the transfer to the Board of the property, rights and liabilities of the Registrar General in relation to the census and other functions transferring to the Board.

211.     Currently the ONS's real property and other significant property rights are held by Ministers on behalf of the Office. Most of the ONS's freehold and leasehold property (accommodation etc.) is held by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Clause 55 gives Ministers of the Crown powers to transfer such property (and any rights and liabilities associated with that property) to the Board or to provide for shared ownership, use or access.

Clause 56 Provision of services and facilities by the Board

212.     As it stands, the GRO, the NHSCR and the secretariat to the Boundary Commission for England (BCE) are administratively part of the ONS, and receive services and facilities (accommodation, IT, utilities, etc.) from it. This clause allows the Board to continue to provide these services to the GRO, the NHSCR and the BCE, and ensure that the efficiency of their functions is not impaired.

Clause 57 Consequential amendments and Schedule 3

213.     This clause and schedule amend existing references to the ONS by replacing them with references to the Board. The various Acts so amended are listed in Schedule 3.

Clause 58 Money

214.     Subsection (1) provides that the expenses incurred in the exercise of the functions of the Board should be paid from funds provided by Parliament.

215.     Subsection (2) provides that any money received by the Board other than under subsection (1) will be paid into the Consolidated Fund.

216.     Subsection (3) provides for the salaries, pension, allowances or expenses of members of the Board, employees or committee members to be paid with the approval of the Treasury.

Clause 59 Evidence

217.     This clause establishes that a document purporting to have been issued by the Board (with the official seal of the Board and the signature of an authorised person to authenticate it) should be treated as having been so sealed and signed until the contrary is proved. Such documents are admissible in any legal proceedings.

Clause 62 Orders and regulations

218.     This clause sets out the Parliamentary procedure to be followed when secondary legislation is made under different provisions of the Bill.

Clause 63 Devolved statistics

219.     This clause sets out the definitions of Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland devolved statistics, reflecting the devolution settlements in the Scotland Act 1998, the Government of Wales Act 2006 and the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

220.     Subsection (1) defines "Scottish devolved statistics" as statistics which relate to matters in Scotland which are not reserved matters (for example, statistics on Scottish education or health), except where they are produced for reserved purposes (for example, information on vacant hospital beds in Scotland produced by the UK Government for emergency planning, which is a reserved matter). As set out in clause 63(1)(b) of this Bill, Scottish devolved statistics also include statistics on reserved matters which are produced for devolved purposes (for example, where a Scottish public authority produces statistics which relate to coverage of financial service providers, a reserved matter, in the exercise of the devolved function of giving financial assistance to Scottish credit unions acting in areas of financial exclusion). Clause 63(1)(c) of this Bill notes that also included in the definition of Scottish devolved statistics are any statistics produced in pursuit of functions transferred to Scottish Ministers under an Order made under section 63(1)(a) of the Scotland Act 1998 (c. 46).

221.     Subsection (2) provides that statistics are not Scottish devolved statistics where they are produced by cross-border public authorities in the meaning of the Scotland Act 1998 and bodies treated as cross-border public authorities for the purposes of some provisions of that Act, except where the statistics in question relate wholly to Scotland. Cross-border public authorities include the Forestry Commission, and the bodies treated as cross- border public authorities comprise the Food Standards Agency, the Council for the Regulation of Health Care Professionals, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the Health Protection Agency and the Security Industry Authority.

222.     Subsection (3) defines "Welsh devolved statistics" as statistics which relate wholly or mainly to the exercise of functions by a Welsh ministerial authority or a public authority whose functions are exercisable only in or as regards Wales (for example, Welsh education statistics, which relate to Welsh Ministerial functions on education and training). Statistics which relate to functions which are devolved to Wales but which are produced in the exercise of reserved functions are not, however, included in the definition of "Welsh devolved statistics" (the same example on vacant hospital bed statistics being required for reserved emergency planning purposes applies as for Scotland).

223.     Subsection (4) defines "Northern Ireland devolved statistics" as statistics which relate to Northern Ireland transferred matters, unless (as for Scotland and Wales) they are produced for reserved purposes. The definition also includes statistics which do not relate to transferred matters in Northern Ireland but which are required for transferred purposes.

Clause 64 General interpretation

224.     This clause defines certain terms used in the Bill.

225.     Subsection (1) sets out the meaning of a number of terms used in Part 1 of the Bill: "Minister of the Crown" is to have the same meaning as in the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975 c.26 and means the holder of an office in Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, including the Treasury and the Board of Trade.

PART 2: REGISTRATION SERVICE

Clause 65 Establishment of Registrar General as corporation sole

226.     Currently, the rights and liabilities of the Registrar General for England and Wales are the responsibility of the office-holder. This clause establishes the Registrar General for England and Wales as a corporation sole. The effect of this is to separate the rights and liabilities of the post of Registrar General from the office-holder.

227.     It also provides for perpetual succession of those rights and liabilities between office holders, as a change of office holders would have no legal significance in contractual terms. The clause also confirms that the Registrar General discharges his functions on behalf of the Crown and that the Registrar General is not a civil servant (although this would not prevent a civil servant being appointed as Registrar General).

Clause 66 Employment status of officials

228.     Currently, as statutory officers, the 1,700 registrars and superintendent registrars in England and Wales have no legal employer and no recourse to employment tribunals.

229.     This clause provides for superintendent registrars, registrars and their respective deputies appointed under the Registration Service Act 1953 to become employees of the local authority that appointed them. It also provides for existing terms and conditions and pension rights to remain unaffected by the change of status and gives continuity of service for unfair dismissal and redundancy purposes. Existing responsibilities under the Registration Acts will be unaffected.

230.     Subsections (3) and (4) respectively provide for the retention of existing terms and conditions and the transfer of liabilities when these office holders transfer to local authority employment.

231.     Subsection (5) provides that a person who was an office holder or a local authority employee for a period before the date of transfer should be regarded as having been in continuous employment.

232.     Subsection (6) provides that where an office holder was a member of a specified pension scheme he continues to belong to that scheme when he becomes a local authority employee.

Clauses 67 to 69 Minor amendments to the Registration Service Act 1953

233.     These clauses make certain minor amendments the Registration Service Act 1953. These are largely consequential to the change of registrars' employment status. They also remove certain powers currently vested in the Registrar General, including the power to remove registrars from office.

Clause 67 Superintendant registrars and registrars

234.     This clause contains amendments to the Registration Service Act 1953 consequential to the transfer of registrars and superintendent registrars into local government employment. The amendments remove the right of the Registrar General to dismiss registrars and superintendents. They also remove the need for registrars to account to the Registrar General for the registration fees they collect, as after they become local authority employees, they will be accountable to the local authority.

Clause 68 Deputy superintendant registrars and registrars

235.     This clause removes the current provision whereby superintendent registrars and registrars can appoint their own deputies and places the responsibility for the appointment of all deputies on the local authority.

Clause 69 Additional registrars of marriage

236.     This clause removes the power under which the Registrar General or superintendent registrars may appoint new registrars of marriage.

PART 3: GENERAL

Clause 71 Commencement

237.     Upon Royal Assent, the provisions of this Bill shall come into force in accordance with provision made by order made by statutory instrument by the Treasury.

Clause 72 Extent

238.     This clause sets out that the legislation will extend to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the exceptions of clause 59 (on evidence in legal matters, which will be governed by the law in England and Wales) and Part 2 (on the Registration Service, which will extend only to England and Wales). Further, any amendment or repeal effected by this Bill will have the same extent as the enactment to which it relates.

Schedule 1 Transfer of functions from Registrar General: Amendments

239.     See clause 23.

Schedule 2 Information sharing: supplementary amendments

240.     See clause 43.

Schedule 3 Replacement of ONS by the Board: consequential amendments

241.     See clause 57.

Schedule 4 Repeals

242.     See clause 70.

FINANCIAL EFFECTS OF THE BILL

243.     The effect of Part 1 of the Bill, in expenditure terms, will be small. There will be certain transition costs involved in establishing the new arrangements, including those relating to the creation of the new independent Board and the transfer of GRO and NHSCR away from ONS. In addition, the Government expects that the running of the Board itself, and the new assessment function, will result in some additional, ongoing, costs. However, these are not expected to be large, and should at least partly be offset by the winding up of the Statistics Commission, whose responsibilities will be subsumed within the Board, and by the fact that the assessment process would be building on, and in some cases replacing, existing quality assurance processes that already exist in most departments.

244.     The provisions of Part 2 of the Bill have no financial implications. Local authorities already pay the salaries etc., and administer the recruitment and appointment, of registration officers.

EFFECTS OF THE BILL ON PUBLIC SERVICE MANPOWER

245.     The Bill is not expected to have large resourcing implications, including in manpower terms. Although the final details are subject to confirmation through the negotiations on the overall settlement for the Board.

SUMMARY OF THE REGULATORY IMPACT ASSESSMENT

246.     While the establishment of the Board is itself expected to have a neutral regulatory impact, as part of this package the Government also proposes a statutory obligation on the new Board to minimise the burdens it imposes on other persons. This might result in a reduction in the regulatory burden.

247.     In addition, the Bill will include provisions to allow for sharing of administrative data to and from the Board, for statistical purposes. This has the potential, in regulatory terms, to benefit businesses which currently supply statistical data to Government, through a reduction of the burden imposed by the requests for completion of surveys on information already held by Government. ONS has estimated that, up to 2015, use of administrative data for statistical purposes, in place of survey returns, could yield savings against the administrative burdens of ONS surveys of around £2m in 2014 and around £4m in 2015, mostly for small business.

248.     However, this is a very early estimate, and further work needs to be undertaken before more definite estimates can be provided, to which firm commitments can be made, with much depending on agreements on data sharing between departments. Further work will be undertaken with a view to updating the figures.

249.     The RIA has been published alongside this Bill and copies placed in the Committee rooms and libraries of both Houses of Parliament. It will be updated at key stages in the legislative process as appropriate.

 
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Prepared: 22 November 2006