Below is the text of Mr Major’s written Parliamentary Answer on Economic Statistics on 17th May 1990.
Mr. Higgins To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, further to his statement to the Treasury and Civil Service Committee on 3 April, he can now announce his plans to improve the quality of economic statistics.
Mr. Major I have arranged for the Central Statistical Office to take further steps to improve the quality of statistics in three areas – services, companies and balance of payments. My aim is to introduce these changes as quickly as possible so that some results will begin to appear in the figures as early as the end of this year. This is a development made possible by last summer’s reorganisation of the CSO which was undertaken to enable improvements to be made to economic statistics.
On services, I propose that extensions are made to quarterly inquiries of turnover in the services industries, and that more information on external trade in services is collected on a quarterly basis. On company statistics, I propose to obtain more quarterly information on capital expenditure, stock-building and profits. On balance of payments (and other financial) statistics, I propose that the quarterly direct investment inquiry should be expanded, and that more information be collected about United Kingdom companies’ financial transactions with domestic and overseas residents. Because of the severe problems with balance of payments statistics, I have asked the CSO to undertake a thorough review over the next 12 months of the way in which these statistics are collected and compiled.
In addition, I have asked the CSO, in consultation with the appropriate bodies, to consider the case for wider use of statutory surveys. This should improve the quality of statistics by increasing response rates. It should also ensure that the burden on businesses is shared more fairly.