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13 Mar 2007 : Column 221

John Healey: The principal point that I am urging on the House is not that it should wait and see but that the importance of pre-release arrangements requires us to adopt an approach that does not incorporate them in a code of practice produced by the board. As far as I can see at this stage, I have given, in my letter and in my explanations to the Committee and to the House, an indication of what we expect the regulations to cover. As soon as we are in a position to produce the draft regulations, we will do so.

Contrary to the approach proposed in the new clause, the Government’s approach brings with it a much sharper and more meaningful sanction for non-compliance. The board can remove national statistic status from statistics that are found to have been prepared or handled in a manner contrary to the code of practice, including in relation to pre-release arrangements.

In summary, I cannot accept amendment No. 35, which would compel the board to include in the code of practice matters relating to pre-release access to official statistics. Nor can I accept the proposed limit on pre-release hours. I do not believe that two hours is sufficient to take the kinds of measures that might be required. Many countries, including Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Japan and the USA, provide for pre-release access well in excess of two hours; indeed, they receive access to certain statistics at least on the day before general release. Particularly in times of economic instability, that enables the Government to consider and plan contingency measures or to release further clarifying information that may prevent the sort of disproportionate and costly public or market reaction that concerns my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West.

Amendment No. 37 is consistent with the Liberal Democrat amendments that would give power to the board to include pre-release access in the code. That would allow the board to make changes to the existing code provisions on pre-release. I cannot accept the amendment because I do not agree that pre-release arrangements should be for the board to determine. It is proper that that is seen as part of the accountability of Ministers to the public and to Parliament. The proper process is to bring such proposals back before the House and subject them to the established procedure for affirmative regulation, thereby providing further scrutiny, securing the House’s approval, and ensuring that the House subsequently plays a more important and active role in ensuring that the standards and rules that we set out are met.

I hope that the new clause will not be pressed to a vote, but if it is, I must ask my hon. Friends to oppose it.

7.45 pm

Mr. Hoban: Such is the interest in pre-release that Members have flocked to the Chamber to see the Minister refuse to take the right step in terms of transferring the responsibility for pre-release out of the hands of Ministers who will draw up the regulations and into the hands of the independent board that will supervise other aspects of the production of national statistics.


13 Mar 2007 : Column 222

I believe that it is important that the regulations on pre-release are codified, that people are consulted on them, and that we accept the principle that there should be pre-release access to statistics. However, we do not accept the continuation of the Government’s control of the process, which has led to people viewing national statistics with increasing cynicism because of the pre-emptive spin that is so often applied to that information. We want to ensure that the rules concerning pre-release access are controlled not by the Government but by the board. I therefore wish to put new clause 5 to the vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House proceeded to a Division.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the No Lobby.


The House having divided: Ayes 185, Noes 268.
Division No. 075]
[7.46 pm



AYES


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Amess, Mr. David
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baker, Norman
Barker, Gregory
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brokenshire, James
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Conway, Derek
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, Philip
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Harris, Dr. Evan
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, David
Huhne, Chris
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Key, Robert

Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kramer, Susan
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, Hugh
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Salmond, Mr. Alex
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Tredinnick, David
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Weir, Mr. Mike
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wishart, Pete
Wright, Jeremy
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. David Evennett and
Mr. Mark Lancaster
NOES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Begg, Miss Anne
Berry, Roger
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David

Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dobbin, Jim
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Mr. Jimmy
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Khabra, Mr. Piara S.
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine

Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, James
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, rh Jacqui
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Liz Blackman and
Jonathan Shaw
Question accordingly negatived.
13 Mar 2007 : Column 223

13 Mar 2007 : Column 224

13 Mar 2007 : Column 225

Clause 3


Members

Mrs. Villiers: I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 2, line 6, leave out ‘Treasury’ and insert ‘Cabinet Office’.

Madam Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 49, in page 2, line 6, at end insert—

‘(c) at least one person appointed by Scottish Ministers.’.

No. 57, line 6, at end insert—

‘(c) at least one person appointed by Welsh Ministers.’.

No. 3, line 7, leave out ‘Treasury’ and insert ‘Cabinet Office’.

No. 50, line 10, leave out paragraph (a).

No. 4, line 10, leave out ‘Treasury’ and insert ‘Cabinet Office’.

No. 58, line 12, leave out paragraph (b).


13 Mar 2007 : Column 226

No. 5, line 12, leave out ‘Treasury’ and insert ‘Cabinet Office’.

No. 6, line 14, leave out ‘Treasury’ and insert ‘Cabinet Office’.

No. 7, line 16, leave out ‘Treasury’ and insert ‘Cabinet Office’.

No. 51, in page 11, line 13, clause 27, leave out

No. 59, line 20, leave out

No. 52, line 39, leave out subsection (9).

No. 53, in page 21, line 4, clause 45, leave out subsection (7).

No. 54, line 7, leave out ‘and the Treasury’.

No. 55, in page 24, line 16, clause 49, leave out subsection (7).

No. 56, line 19, leave out ‘and the Treasury’.

Mrs. Villiers: Amendments Nos. 2 to 7 would transfer the residual ministerial functions from the Treasury to the Cabinet Office. I understand the concerns behind the other amendments, tabled by the Scottish National party, which would reduce the Treasury’s powers in matters relevant to the devolved Administrations. It is difficult to get the balance right between those Administrations and the Government in this context, but there is a need for some institutional co-ordination across the country and across the structures. As it stands, I do not think that there is a case for removing the input from the centre. I am not, therefore, minded to support those amendments.

On amendments Nos. 2 to 7, we would have preferred the residual powers to be taken out of ministerial hands and transferred to Parliament, and to set up the new system along the same lines as the National Audit Office. Those arguments were not accepted in Committee and we shall not press them, but we see this option as second best. The Minister dismissed similar amendments in Committee on the basis that the ministerial functions were not significant and that the point of the Bill was to take all significant powers away from Ministers and to vest them in the independent board. It is true that the Bill will reduce ministerial involvement in the statistical system, and that is welcome. That move does, indeed, reduce the significance of the choice of Department to carry out the residual remaining functions. However, the residual functions left with Ministers are still significant. Most important of all, clause 3 gives Ministers the power to determine the size of the board and to appoint its members. There are also important powers in clause 27, which gives the Chancellor significant powers on direction in the event that the board fails to perform its functions, and in clause 62, which contains important functions in relation to secondary legislation and orders. We are not raising a theoretical question; we are talking about powers that are genuinely important for the way in which the new structure for running statistical services will operate.

There are three key questions that we should ask when considering the amendments. The first is, which Department is least likely to interfere with the priorities and the work of the board?


13 Mar 2007 : Column 227

Alun Michael: The hon. Lady asks which Department is least likely to interfere. Surely the question would more sensibly be which Department is most likely to create positive outcomes.

Mrs. Villiers: I am coming to that. As the right hon. Gentleman says, we must also consider which Department is likely to be of the greatest assistance to the board and the National Statistician when they require the assistance of a Department in standing up to other Departments when those Departments’ standards in producing and releasing statistics fall below par. The third question is which Department would be the most effective in arguing the case for the board and statistical services in determining the appropriate level of funding.

The Opposition believe in every case that the answer to those questions is the Cabinet Office and not, as is provided by the Bill, the Treasury. In this we share the view of many who expressed concerns during the consultation, including a number of distinguished academics, as well as the Royal Statistical Society and the Statistics Commission.

On the first question, we believe that the Cabinet Office is less likely than the Treasury to seek to exert political influence over the priorities and work of the board in a way that is out of line with the Bill’s goals. We base that conclusion on the fact that the Cabinet Office has no direct interest in a particular type of statistic, whereas, naturally, the Treasury does. For obvious reasons, the Treasury has a particular focus on economic statistics. As a major consumer of statistics, it is not disinterested. The potential for a conflict of interest is exacerbated by the fact that the measurement of the Treasury’s performance in critical areas of economic and fiscal policy is heavily dependent on the statistics and judgment of those who are responsible for producing them. The Cabinet Office, on the other hand, has no such conflict of interest, a point made by Lord Moser to the Treasury Committee. It is neither a major consumer of statistics nor is its performance heavily linked to statistical analysis.

Rob Marris: My understanding is that the Cabinet Office deals with social inclusion, for example. In fact, the Minister responsible for that is my constituency neighbour, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. McFadden). In determining whether any Government have made inroads on social exclusion—something that the hon. Lady’s party at last, I am glad to say, welcomes—surely the conflict potential would also apply to the Cabinet Office.

Mrs. Villiers: I certainly agree that whatever Department we choose, we are unlikely to eliminate entirely the possibility of conflict, but it is more intense in relation to the Treasury than it would be in relation to the Cabinet Office.


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