It has been a long time since the Green Paper, but all that we have heard so far is thatthe budget will be set according to a five-year programme—that is pretty sketchy detail to go on. For example, we do not know what will happen if the statistics board is unhappy with its budget. It is not clear who would negotiate with the Treasury on its behalf. That is one of the weaknesses of the Treasury retaining residual responsibility. The Financial Secretary could virtually argue with himself, rather than give authority to a different Minister to argue on the board’s behalf.
If the statistics board is unhappy with the budget allocated, it will be unhappy for the next five or six years—or for whatever the duration of the budget—during which time it will have little recourse. It might also be unhappy more generally, as we have indicated in earlier amendments, with the budgetary resources allocated to departmental statistical work. The Financial Secretary rejected our amendments that would have given the board more direct oversight of funding and staffing within different Departments.
I support my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet, but I would not have do so if we had not been given such thin detail on how the budgetary process will work. The amendment is very useful because it gives the Financial Secretary the chance to provide that detail, for which we have waited almost a year.