This is the first of a series of clauses that provide important supplementary functions for the statistics board. The others—clauses 14 to 17—deal with programmes of assessment, principles and procedures, lists of national statistics and transitional provisions. Clause 13 provides for the reassessment of statistics, designated as national statistics under the previous clause, in order to determine whether they continue to comply with the code of practice. Thereafter, their designation as national statistics can be either confirmed or cancelled. This process will apply either because the statistics have been assessed previously by the board as meeting the code or because they are national statistics at the commencement of the new system. I suspect and hope that there will be rather less contention around this and some of the subsequent clauses, but nevertheless it is important and I commend it to the Committee.
I would like to ask my hon. Friend about the time frame for clauses 13 to 15, because I do not see one. Clause 16 refers to “once every financial year”, and clause 17 contains transitional provisions for the old regime to continue until the new one is in place, but clauses 13 and, as I read them, 14 and 15, set no time limit on the board and could leave us struggling on under the old regime indefinitely. That seems rather unsatisfactory. Has he thought about including a time limit in the clauses to ensure that the board carries out its functions within, for example, a year of the Act receiving Royal Assent?
My hon. Friend is right. It would be undesirable and unacceptable for the transitional period to struggle on for a long time. I explained earlier that I want to move quickly as the legislation proceeds through Parliament and to appoint a chairman of the shadow board. With the good will of those who want the system to work, I expect and hope that the board will be up and running without undue delay. This will be one of its core functions and something to which I expect it to give its attention early on. In principle, he might have put his finger on a potential problem, but in practice I do not share his concerns. Clearly, a fixed and precise timetable is difficult to legislate for. It will depend on the board, which will in many ways determine the pace of progress.