I have a question for my hon. Friend the Minister. Is it the board’s intention to form a sub-committee specifically to consider strengthening and deepening public understanding of statistics? The concerns in all parts of the Committee about possible misuses of official statistics might be alleviated somewhat if the public had greater understanding of their purpose, how they are used and how they are collected. It is necessary to encourage people to participate in official surveys, which might be easier if the public understood why the surveys were being carried out and their importance to the policy making process.
Like Opposition Members, I have been making international comparisons. A number of countries set a lot of store by increasing public understanding of the use of statistics, most notably Japan. There is evidence that that encourages the public to participate in Government surveys. Interestingly, there is also a national statistics day in Japan, although I am not sure whether I advocate that idea. I have not tabled an amendment, but I would be grateful for information on Report about how we might encourage the development of greater public understanding. I refer the Minister to a recent article in the Public Understanding of Science journal that makes the point that statistical misunderstandings occur and that we should attempt to tackle the problem. I would be grateful if that was done.
My hon. Friend has obviously been doing her research. I was unaware that Japan holds a national statistics day, which is not something that I am inclined to write into the Bill, although we will bear it in mind. As she will understand, I cannot answer for the board’s intentions as she asks me to. She is right that there is widespread concern about the difficulty of maintaining high response rates to certain important surveys and that better understanding of statistics and their use may well help. I anticipate that as the board becomes established and starts to undertake its duties, it will study the points made during our proceedings and that it will want to consider the matter.