HC Deb 06 March 2002 vol 381 cc399-400W
Mr. Flook

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the criteria used to determine which companies are required to answer the Annual Business Inquiry-Part II for 2001 Financial Questionnaire from the Office for National Statistics; for what reasons this is compulsory; what the timescale is in which companies are required to answer; what proportion have responded to previous annual inquiries since 1997; how long it will take to process the information for this inquiry; and for what purposes the information will be used. [39959]

Ruth Kelly

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from John Pullinger to Mr. Adrian Flook, dated 6 March 2002: The National Statistician has been asked to reply to your recent question regarding the criteria used to determine which companies are required to answer the Annual Business Inquiry (ABI) - Part II for 2001 Financial Questionnaire from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). I am replying in his absence. (39959) The ABI is a vital source of information about the structure of UK industry and the economy. It is used to compile the input/output tables, which underpin the United Kingdom National Accounts, including estimates of GDP, and is increasingly being used as a source of regional economic data. ONS compiles a register of businesses classified by size, as defined by the number of employees, and by the nature of their business activity. It is important for ONS to ensure representative results from its business inquiries, including the ABI. Representative results have to be based on representative survey samples and, as such, data has to be collected from businesses of all sizes and all sectors of the economy. ONS therefore approaches small, medium and large sized companies. However, ONS is conscious of the need to lighten the form-filling burden for businesses wherever possible, and particularly for smaller businesses, without compromising survey results. Companies with fewer than 10 employees are selected and are subject to a guarantee that they will only be expected to complete one business inquiry form, at most, every 3 years. Small to medium sized businesses are usually included in the sample for 2 consecutive years and are then replaced by another similar sized business in their industry. The largest companies will inevitably always be selected. In 2001, 72,000 UK businesses, out of a total of just under 2 million businesses, received the ABI Part II form. The ABI is a statutory inquiry conducted under the Statistics of Trade Act 1947. Its statutory nature reflects the importance of the information collected for the monitoring of UK economic trends by the Government. A voluntary inquiry would have to approach a much larger number of businesses in order to ensure a similar level of response, and even then response would be biased towards those companies that were inclined to be co-operative with such business inquiries. Companies are required to submit data by 31 March or within 2 months of their business year-end. If no figures are available for calendar year 2001, a return may cover a business year ending on any date between 6 April 2001 and 5 April 2002. Contributors to the inquiry are welcome to telephone the ONS contact named on the inquiry form for assistance in making their return. The proportions of companies responding to Annual Business Inquiries over the three years since it was implemented in 1998 are 85% in 1998, 86% in 1999 and 85% in 2000. For the 2001 inquiry provisional results will be made available in a First Release in December 2002 with final results in June 2003.