HL Deb 11 November 1999 vol 606 cc223-4WA
Lord Kennet

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proportion of the country's significant economic and social activity is currently being measured by the Office for National Statistics or its successor body; and in what terms it is being measured; and [HL4586]

Whether the country's currently measured economic activity includes non-marketed, but marketable, activity (such as household, political, voluntary, charitable, caring work) and marketed by not recorded activity (such as undeclared or criminal work), and, if not, how is the economic or social importance of these activities evaluated and taken into account. [HL4587]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Director of the Office for National Statistics, who has been asked to reply.

Letter to Lord Kennet from the Director of the Office for National Statistics, Dr T Holt, dated 11 November 1999.

As Director of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), I have been asked to reply to your parliamentary questions on economic and social activity currently being measured.

Currently the ONS aims to measure all the significant economic activity in the United Kingdom which involves a monetary transaction. This is measured at current and constant prices and published in the UK National Accounts, which conform to internationally agreed coverage and definitions. Statistics are collected and published on a wide range of social activity. It is not possible to say what proportion is being measured, as this would depend on how widely or narrowly social activity is defined, and whether it is in fact possible to quantify the unmeasured element.

The National Accounts do include the non-market activity of various bodies such as non-profit institutions serving households, e.g. charities, trade unions etc., as well as the non-market output of general government. Estimates of capital formation include activities such as self-build dwellings, which are part of the output produced by domestic households for their own consumption.

National Accounts aggregates are also adjusted to take account of some activity which is produced and sold but not recorded, e.g. sole traders and partnerships who are not registered for income tax. Research has also been undertaken to provide illustrative estimates of illegal activity. A description of this research was published in Economic Trends in July 1998, but these estimates are not sufficiently developed to be incorporated into the National Accounts.

The ONS is developing a household satellite account, which aims to measure and value all domestic household production including caring and voluntary work. A major input into this work will be the results from the UK Time Use Survey, which is co-ordinated by the ONS and jointly funded by a consortium of government departments and the Economic and Social Research Council. Fieldwork for this survey is due to begin next March and last for 12 months. Respondents will be asked to fill in, using their own words, a diary covering all their activities in two 24-hour periods—one week day and one weekend day. The diary information will be supported by the individual questionnaire, which will ask respondents to record any 'voluntary work' they have done or 'help and services' they have provided for others in the previous four weeks. This survey will give important insights into social activity, as well as providing more information about non-marketed economic activity.