My right hon. Friend is right. In dealing with concerns about understanding flows of population, it is necessary for statisticians to have access to the data. The important question then is whether that takes place in circumstances that sufficiently safeguard the confidentiality of certain types of data and the uses to which they may be put. That is the essence of the debate that we are having this morning.
The reason is that, just like the ONS at present, the board will need to have access to identifiable information if it is going to continue to produce—let alone improve— useful and meaningful population statistics. Such statistics require the ability to identify all moves where an individual has registered a change of permanent address, thus enabling the board to identify which individuals should be counted as migrants and in what data periods, areas and population sub-groups. Individual records are required for matching and tracing migrants between separate reporting periods; research into understanding, for instance, patterns of migration by linking recent and older records is possible only if the two types of records can be matched individually.
It has become increasingly important for policy makers to be well informed about migration, both to monitor the pattern and trends in flows and to respond to changes in the position and impact of migrants within society and the economy.