Clause 27

Part of Statistics and Registration Service Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 6:15 pm ar 23 Ionawr 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of John Healey John Healey The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 6:15, 23 Ionawr 2007

The clause has been drafted to ensure that the devolved Administrations can play a full part in the work of the statistics board and so that they can have control over matters relating to wholly devolved statistics. For statistics that are not wholly devolved, the Bill establishes an appropriate framework for interaction between the board and the relevant devolved Administrations.

In respect of amendments Nos. 7 and 8 tabled by the hon. Member for Dundee, East, the powers in clause 27 are designed to protect the public interest so that if, and only if, the board fundamentally fails to deliver, for any reason, the Government can intervene, always publicly and in writing, to ensure that the board’s obligations are met. The clause provides an important safeguard, allowing the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the devolved Administrations to give the board such directions as are, in those circumstances, appropriate in the event of such a serious failure by the board to perform any of its functions or to comply with EU obligations.

I say this to the hon. Gentleman: it is appropriate that the Chancellor’s consent be needed for directions from Scottish Ministers. That is a last resort because a board failure might affect the position of statistics throughout the United Kingdom and so it is important that such directions be consistent. The consent will ensure that the directions are co-ordinated and that the Bill does not create any potentially conflicting powers. In addition, the resourcing of the board, in order to remedy a serious failure, will remain the responsibility of the UK Parliament, to which the Chancellor will, of course, be accountable. In such circumstances, shared accountability is important for such decisions and interventions.

We have been working closely with the Scottish Executive, as the Committee would expect, to ensure that the provisions in the Bill are appropriate to—in this case—Scotland. I can confirm that Scottish Ministers have agreed to their role in giving directions to the board in the case of a serious failure, including to the requirement for the Chancellor’s consent. The Scottish Parliament is being asked for its consent as well via the legislative consent motion currently lodged with it.

On amendments Nos. 9 to 12, we will discuss clauses on data sharing a little later. Essentially, the Bill sets out a mechanism for data sharing for statistical purposes between the board and public authorities only. The key point is that the mechanisms in clauses 45 and 49 mirror the mechanisms in other data-sharing clauses, which generally require the consent of the Treasury, as the body with residual legislative responsibility for the board, and of the Minister responsible for the other body involved in the data sharing. That will ensure that the Minister for the body disclosing data and the one responsible for the body receiving the data are both content for the regulation to  be made. I see no reason why the provisions in Scotland should be any different from those applying else where. On that basis, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not press his amendment.