Select Committee on Treasury Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220 - 224)



  220. That is a core role?
  (Sir John Kingman) Yes.

  221. And if you felt that the National Statistician was not up to the job would you be able to report that to Parliament?
  (Sir John Kingman) We can report anything which is relevant to statistics and the work of the National Statistician is obviously central to National Statistics, so if we find ourselves advising Ministers on the work of the National Statistician, that advice will be published.

  222. Turning to the Commission's budget and staffing resources, to what degree is your programme of work constrained by the quite small budget amount?
  (Sir John Kingman) We will obviously operate within the budget that we have been allocated. If we come to feel that the budget is inadequate to do what we feel needs to be done we shall say so, but I expect to get a lot of the work done, for instance, within ONS, a lot of the work done by outside contract, and I believe that the budget that we have been initially assigned will enable us to do quite a lot. Whether it will enable us to do enough is something that time will tell but we shall not hesitate to advise Ministers if we think that they could usefully put more money into our budget.

  223. The Treasury is the sponsoring department for the Commission. Is there not a tension here in terms of demonstrating independence?
  (Sir John Kingman) The Treasury has so far been extremely helpful. Remember that we have set up this organisation from nothing; it is completely new. We have started absolutely from the ground up and we have had a great deal of help from the Treasury in doing that. The Treasury accepts that as we become more established we will want to detach ourselves as far as that is practical from the Treasury so as to demonstrate independence, so that you can rely on our giving views which are not simply parroting the Treasury's views. Whether that will prove to be in practice in conflict with the Treasury's role in providing us with our budget is something that time will tell. We intend to form our own views and they may or may not agree with the views that are formed in the Treasury. We shall not hesitate to give our views and to make those views public even if that leads us into conflict on occasion with the Treasury. I have no reason at the moment to suppose that this will be a problem. If it turns out to be a problem we shall say so.

  224. Finally, in a similar vein, three of the Commission staff are seconded civil servants, I understand. Again, why not make more use of the private sector to demonstrate a strong independent line?
  (Sir John Kingman) We are already going out to open advertisement for the next appointment that we make and I think that is important, but I do not think you should underestimate the professionalism of the civil servants who have been seconded to the Commission. I am quite sure that they will, while they are working for the Commission, show the same independence that the Commissioners will show. Remember that the decisions, for instance on the work programme, the decisions on the reports that we make, the views that we form, will be the decisions of the eight Commissioners and not the decisions of the staff of the Commission. I am quite sure that the Commissioners are people of completely independent mind who will not be afraid to say unpopular things if they think they are the right things to say.

  Chairman: Sir John, thank you very much indeed.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 18 January 2001