asked the President of the Board of Trade if he has any statement to make with regard to complaints from firms in connection with the Census of Production now being carried out by his Department; and whether he realises that the length of the questionnaires impose an enormous burden on hard-pressed businesses.
Most firms have completed, and returned without complaint, their 1946 Partial Census of Production schedules. Only a very small minority have, in spite of reminders, failed to send in their returns, and in some cases, have made comments on the length of the schedules. The questions are necessarily more numerous in schedules which cover many sections of a trade, but only a proportion need be answered by any one firm. I am satisfied that the work involved in completing the schedules is more than justified by the value of the information elicited.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that there are several hundred questions to be answered by each firm? Does he really think that he has a staff which can analyse and make use of all the information with which he will be equipped when these questions have been answered?
I have been through a lot of these forms myself. I think that some of the complaints about them have been grossly exaggerated. Certain of the forms include 628 separate entries, but involve filling in no more than 10 entries in the case of any particular firm.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that all these questions have to be read through, and that the firm in question has to make up its mind whether or not it has to answer them which means an enormous amount of time is wasted?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that were it not for the fear of victimisation from the Board of Trade the remarks made by many firms would have been much stronger?
Has it not been said that at least one of these forms was sent out in order to train the right hon. Gentleman's Department in the collection of statistics, and not to obtain information?