New Clause 4 — Legal obligation to obey the code of practice
Statistics and Registration Service Bill (Programme) (No. 2)
John Healey (Financial Secretary, HM Treasury; Wentworth, Labour)
I have not had any formal submissions from the commission on this proposal, although I do not know whether the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet has. It played an active part in the consultation and many of the proposals in the Bill reflect the concerns and points that it raised. It is also working in great detail on proposals for the new code of practice. That work will be extremely valuable to the board and its chair once it is set up and it has to finalise the code of practice for which it will be statutorily responsible.
As I have said, the process set out in the Bill will provide a strong incentive for Ministers to look actively at submitting additional departmental statistics for approval as national statistics. That independent stamp of approval will be important—indeed, central—in giving credibility and confidence to the policy functions and delivery for which Ministers are responsible. If I seem a little too optimistic in my view of how Ministers might react, I should point out that the board, through the Bill, has a responsibility to judge and report its view of the comprehensiveness and coverage of the statistical system. In discharging that responsibility, I fully expect it to take a view on whether statistics not currently designated and approved as national statistics should be so designated. I also fully expect Parliament to play a much stronger role in choosing to call to account Ministers or Departments that do not follow that advice. That seems to me a very public, very important and proper parliamentary form of accountability and scrutiny that reinforces the system, going much further than what Mr. Fallon characterised as the current "name and shame" system.