New Clause 15 — Defence statistics
Armed Forces Bill (Programme) (No. 2)
Andrew Robathan (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans), Defence; South Leicestershire, Conservative)
I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman is being deliberately obtuse. The point is that the Government do not have all the statistics to publish, and compiling them would be extremely expensive—and, as I just said, they are becoming increasingly inaccurate. We do not compile statistics on everything.
Those estimates were difficult and intensive to maintain. They relied on analytical tables produced by the Office for National Statistics that have not been updated since 1995. As I have explained, the statistics did not support the MOD’s decision making. I have looked into how much it would cost to reintroduce the estimates and the cost is higher than the benefit to defence. My main focus, and our main focus, must be on doing what is best for the armed forces.
I note from previous debates on this subject that the hon. Gentleman is concerned that the cessation of those statistics will mean that a gap emerges in information on defence, particularly with regard to Scotland. It should be noted that assessments of the employment effects of MOD expenditure will continue to be undertaken for individual defence projects, and as part of the regional impact assessments that are conducted to inform MOD base closures. For instance, we know how many people are employed at specific bases—that is quite straightforward—but we do not compile huge tables of statistics that are of no great value. Decisions and policy in these areas will continue to use evidence about the employment impacts.
In the light of that, I hope the Committee rejects new clause 15.