I happen to agree with the hon. Lady about the fragmentation of what I call British statistics, at least in so far as ensuring their quality, accuracy and completeness, which is uniformly first class throughout all statistics produced by the nations, the provinces and the UK as a whole. It is also correct that there must be UK data, not least to fulfil international obligations. However, there must not and there cannot be uniformity for the sake of it. Should a devolved Administration require statistics in a form that they define, it would be a matter for them alone, so long as the statistics, official or national, fulfilled all other criteria set by the board, particularly on quality, completeness and on-time delivery.
The hon. Lady suggested that a devolved Administration may restrict or stop the calculation of a statistic that shows them in a poor light. However, given the absence of accurate data, particularly economic data, not only in the UK, England and parts of England, but in Scotland, it is far more likely that the Administration would seek to commission the information that they required. The information that they may not consent to is information or statistics that they presumably do not consider necessary to set policy priorities, to measure the success or failure of policies and so on.
We know from previous sittings that the Treasury controls the appointment to and size of the board, and that the Treasury can restrict the board’s direction in the case of failure, which we will come to. The Treasury can also restrict the disclosure of information to and from the board, particularly if the devolved Administrations request or demand it. The clause is a useful safeguard to ensure that Administrations cannot have foisted upon them information that they consider to be of no value. However, the provision relates only to fully devolved statistics. State-wide statistics, which the hon. Lady wants for the purposes of comparison, will of course be provided because they are UK statistics.
I am not sure what we heard from the hon. Lady, but the clause offers a degree of protection against Administrations becoming burdened with statistics for which they have little or no use. Other clauses allow them to direct the production of statistics that they need. The hon. Lady’s fears are unfounded. Given the Treasury’s command and control of other parts of the process, which we have discussed, I would have thought that she would have been delighted to see that at least one part of the process is fully in the control of the Assembly in Wales, the Parliament in Scotland and the Administration in Northern Ireland.