HC Deb 06 December 1966 vol 737 cc1144-6
Q1. Mr. Higgins

asked the Prime Minister what improvements have taken place in Government statistics required for economic planning purposes since last April.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

A large number of chancres have been and are being made in key series relating to industrial output, labour, household expenditure, the balance of payments and in social statistics. Improvement of statistical information is, of course, a continuous process and a number of further changes are being considered.

Mr. Higgins

Would the Prime Minister agree that statistics showing the relationship between different industries are essential to planning? Will he explain why the House was assured last year by the then First Secretary that input-output tables reconciling the figures in the National Plan existed and would be published, whereas last week the present First Secretary said that it was not worth producing such tables? Do they exist and, if so, will the right hon. Gentleman have them placed in the Library?

The Prime Minister

A great deal of work was done on them. I must ask for notice about the publication of any table or series of tables. A lot of improvement has been made, but I share with the hon. Member the anxiety about some of these figures, particularly the Production Index, which is usually three to six months late and which often has to be revised, whether upwards or downwards, months after that.

Q8. Mr. Higgins

asked the Prime Minister when the review of Government statistics being carried out by the Director of the Oxford Institute of Economics and Statistics is likely to be completed; whether it will be published; and when the Government expects to implement it.

The Prime Minister

Shortly, Sir. Decisions about publication and implementation can only be taken when the Report has been received.

Mr. Higgins

Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that this is very slow progress? Would he meanwhile take steps to increase the statistics available on redeployment?

The prime Minister

Yes. We are trying to improve the statistics over a much wider area than that and certainly on redeployment. Within the limits of what is possible a great improvement is taking place. Some figures have already been given to the House. With regard to Mr. Jackson's Report, I understand that he has been rather seriously ill just before the Report was about to be published. We very urgently want to see it and hope that he will be able to produce it shortly.

Q9. Dr. David Owen

asked the Prime Minister what improvements he intends to make in the effective rationalisation of Government statistics.

The Prime Minister

Departments are continually modifying their statistics to meet the needs of the Government and other users, and the whole field is kept under central review. If my hon. Friend has any particular point in mind, or suggestion to make, I would be happy to consider it.

Dr. Owen

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is some concern about regional statistics, where there is considerable overlap between Departments? Would he encourage Departments to adopt the economic sub-regions put out by the D.E.A.?

The Prime Minister

This is one of the things that Mr. Jackson was looking at. We are very anxious that the statistics required should not only be published on a regional basis but, as far as possible, especially industrially, should be collected on a regional basis, in the regions, on a comparable basis so that we shall have regional as well as national figures on a comparable basis.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

Is the Prime Minister aware that the most urgent measure of rationalisation of Government statistics is the publication, as a prominent feature of the statistics, of their statistical limits of error, so that less misconstruction and misinterpretation will be placed upon figures, which simply cannot carry them?

The Prime Minister

Yes. Over the years there has grown up a volume of considerable thickness, with all the limitations. The bases of calculation are printed at regular intervals, although I think that this would not stop some hon. Members from drawing the wrong conclusions from the figures.