§ Mr. Steen
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will consider establishing a statistical user group made up of representatives from the Central Statistical Office, local authorities and bodies such as the Council for the Protection of Rural England in order to improve the accuracy of population statistics and need for homes in the south west of England. 
§ Mr. Robert B Jones
Arrangements are already in place for consulting local authorities and other interested parties during the production of population projections.
Population estimates and subnational population projections are the responsibility of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys. One of the key assumptions that has to be made in preparing the subnational population projections concerns the pattern of migration within England. This is decided following extensive consultation with the relevant local authorities, a task which is undertaken by the Department of the Environment. This consultation relates to past and present trends and the projections assume a continuation of these trends.
In addition, OPCS chairs a separate liaison group for representatives from both central and local government for consideration of the methodology and timing of population statistics.
My Department produced household projections from the subnational population projections. Both of these are trend-based projections, based on the best evidence available at the time. They are not forecasts of what we expect to happen, nor do they represent DOE's expectation of the number of houses needed in any particular area. Rather, they are one item of information taken into account in setting guidance for housing provision, along with other information such as housing stock and vacant dwellings. The weight to be given to these and other factors is considered by a working group in each region comprising representatives from local authorities, statisticians and planners from my Department and interested parties such as the House Builders Federation and the Council for the Protection of Rural England. The Secretary of State's figures for housing provision in regional planning guidance is a result of these considerations.