HC Deb 25 July 1929 vol 230 cc1549-51W

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that in many districts there has been a reduction in the population as estimated by the Registrar-General for the calendar year 1928; that in the case of industrial areas such reductions are substantial; whether his attention has been directed to the significance of such a reduction taking place when the population figure forms such an important factor in the estimation of the new Government grants, as a result of the Local Government Act; and whether he will consider the desirability of having these figures reviewed seeing that in some cases they have not been adopted by the medical officer of health of the district in his health Report?


It is usual to find that the populations of local government areas are in some cases declining; and the fact that the Registrar-General's estimates of population for 1928 indicate that the population in certain areas has declined since 1921 affords no ground for surprise. If, however, the hon. Member refers to cases where the estimated population for 1928 is lower than the estimated population for 1927 to an extent which does not seem to be explained by any population movements during the intervening period, I may say that a misapprehension is involved which can be simply disposed of. Such a criticism assumes that each annual estimate is based strictly upon that for the preceding year and takes account of intervening changes only. But this is not, I am informed, the practice. Were that course followed, any imperfection in any annual estimate would be confirmed and the consequent error would accumulate over a period of years. On the contrary, the practice of the Registrar-General, I understand, is to review afresh the whole period since the last census for the purpose of each annual estimate; and in the present instance this review, which was conducted, owing to the important purposes which the estimates are required to serve, with a greater thoroughness and with regard to a higher standard of precision has hitherto been necessary for the purpose of mortality rates alone, effected some amendment of the intervening estimates. But I may assure the hon. Member that there can be no ques- tion of any general under-estimation. The Registrar-General's estimates of the populations of local government areas necessarily aggregate to the population of the country as a whole, which he is in a position to estimate independently on material of a reliable character. Indeed, any general opinion that the Registrar-General's populations are under-estimated could only be satisfied by assigning to local government areas populations which in the aggregate would largely exceed the total population of the country.