HL Deb 08 November 2004 vol 666 cc62-3WA
Lord Patten

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 20 October (WA 84), whether the production by the Office for National Statistics of estimates of output per hour worked for both the private and public sectors in the United Kingdom will help understanding of the international comparisons of whole economy output per hour, currently being published on an experimental basis. [HL4669]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from the National Statistician, Len Cook, to the Lord Patten, dated 8 November 2004.

As National Statistician I have been asked to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question on international comparisons of output per hour worked. (HL4669)

For Office for National Statistics (ONS) international comparisons of productivity (ICP), individual countries' national gross domestic product at current prices are converted into comparable volume measures using the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) current purchasing power parities (PPPs) to remove cross-country price differentials. Any further details such as estimates of hourly productivity for different sectors could be used to help our understanding of national relative productivity positions, but there remain some particular measurement and data difficulties so that ONS does not currently publish such detail.

Some countries publish productivity measures for their business sector or marketed economy (eg the US and Canada). It is common to focus on parts of the economy because the economy is considered to be measured more accurately at an individual sector level. Historically, the UK has focussed more on industry detail, rather than institutional sectors, and headline UK measures highlight the production industries where there is a long series of consistent output and labour series forming the basis for productivity measures.

On public sector productivity, we have asked Sir Tony Atkinson, Warden of Nuffield College, Oxford, to carry out a review of "Measurement of Government Output and Productivity for the National Accounts". Sir Tony published an interim report in July 2004, and his final report is due in January 2005. Once I have considered Sir Tony's final report, it will be for me to decide what changes to make to statistics produced by ONS.

On the employment side, ONS publishes public sector employment statistics (with the next set of figures due to be released during November). ONS is also leading a programme of work to improve the quality of these statistics in collaboration with government departments.