European Scrutiny Committee Contents

21 Statistics




COM (10) 132




COM (10) 346

Draft Regulation on European environmental economic accounts

Commission Report on the mid-term evaluation of the Community Statistical Programme 2008-2012

Legal base(a) Article 338 TFEU; co-decision; QMV

(b) —

Documents originated(a) 9 April 2010

(b) 30 June 2010

Deposited in Parliament(a) 25 June 2010

(b) 6 July 2010

DepartmentOffice for National Statistics
Basis of consideration(a) EM of 15 September 2010

(b) EM of 17 September 2010

Previous Committee ReportNone
Discussion in CouncilNot known
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


21.1 In order to ensure the consistency and comparability of statistical information in the EU, Decision No. 1578/2007/EC on the Community Statistical Programme 2008-2012 established a five-year EU statistical programme which identifies the approaches, the main fields and the objectives of the actions envisaged in respect of policy priorities. The Decision requires the Commission to make an interim report on the programme no later than June 2010.

21.2 Environmental accounts are "satellite accounts" to the main National Accounts, that is extensions to the National Accounts which allow for analysis of the wider impact of economic change, in this case the interaction of the economy with the environment. The accounts use similar concepts to those employed in the National Accounts and reflect the recommended EU and United Nations frameworks for developing such accounts. The Decision establishing the Community Statistical Programme 2008-2012 makes a clear reference to the need for high quality statistics and accounts in the domain of the environment. Under the annexed main programme initiatives for 2008 to 2012 the Decision says that 'legal bases will be developed, where appropriate, for core areas of environmental data collection not currently covered by legal acts'.

The documents

21.3 The draft Regulation, document (a), would establish a common framework for the collection, compilation, transmission and evaluation of the EU environmental economic accounts. The Regulation would:

  • encompass three modules — air emissions accounts, environmentally related taxes and economy-wide material flow accounts; and
  • operate in place of the current gentlemen's agreement with National Statistical Institutes, in order to promote provision of the harmonised, timely and high-quality statistics required to inform environmental and sustainability policy.

21.4 In its Report, document (b), the Commission evaluates, in accordance with Decision No. 1578/2007/EC, the first two years of the Community Statistical Programme 2008-2012. The Commission says that:

  • around 90% of the programme's objectives are on track and likely to be delivered by the end of 2012;
  • financial constraints affecting EU National Statistical Institutes may hinder progress in the second half of the programme;
  • some matters have already been realised, including stabling the European Statistical Governance Advisory Board, the Energy Statistics Regulation and a more user-friendly Eurostat website;
  • other objectives had not started, including the development of indicators for analysing the performance of logistics and inter-modal transport, the implementation of an updated classification system for National Accounts and development of a methodology for assessing the quality of regional data;
  • the European Statistical System had demonstrated its capacity to deal with the statistical consequences of the financial crisis in the areas of macroeconomic and social statistics — this had been achieved through issue of decisions on the statistical treatment of government interventions and provision of appropriate economic and labour market indicators;
  • a number of cross-cutting initiatives were being implemented, including building of a multinational enterprise group register, a Regulation on the exchange of confidential data between Eurostat and the European System of Central Banks and efforts to standardise data transmission tools and metadata;
  • there had been good work in building relationships with stakeholders, balancing costs and benefits and monitoring compliance;
  • a number of cross-sectional initiatives were being implemented, including development of structural indicators (to support the Lisbon Strategy), sustainable development indicators, enlargement strategies to build statistical capacity and measuring the progress of societies;
  • it recommends that the second half of the Community Statistical Programme should focus on a more efficient production and dissemination method for EU statistics and strengthening of the European Statistics Code of Practice to improve quality and trust in EU;
  • bringing the Greek statistical system into line with EU requirements is important;
  • it has a number of recommendations for the future, including building stronger links between multi-annual and annual programming, balancing demands and resources to shape a workable vision for the next decade; and
  • new needs for statistical information will need to be defined and these must be delivered appropriately, with due consideration to a strong partnership in the European Statistical System, effective cost-burden analysis and prioritisation and the right resources to implement the programme.

The Government's view

21.5 The Minister for the Cabinet Office (Francis Maude) says that the Government fully supports adoption of the proposed Regulation, document (a). He comments that the Government particularly welcomes the priority given to the regular production of a core set of accounts and approves the proposal to focus on three key modules in the first instance — air emissions accounts, environmentally related taxes and economy-wide material flow accounts. The Minister adds that these accounts are well established, have clear policy application and represent no additional burden and that the UK has well established Environmental Economic Accounts which are used to inform sustainable development policy, to model impacts of fiscal or monetary measures and to evaluate the environmental impacts of different sectors of the economy.

21.6 The Minister says that the Government is content with the Commission Report on the Community Statistical Programme 2008-2012, document (b), and that there are no direct policy implications resulting from it. He comments further that the Government:

  • welcomes the statement about needing to keep the right balance between the programme objectives and the deteriorating resource position of many National Statistical Institutes;
  • would like, however, to see less focus on what more is to be done and more focus on stopping EU statistical requirements through effective user consultation and prioritisation of outputs;
  • supports the proposed cost-benefit analyses across each statistical domain and efforts to improve communications on how EU statistics are being used by the Commission and other users — it is important that such communications demonstrate real decision making concerning data use priorities and not just contain general statements;
  • is not convinced that the legislative measures introduced to reduce the statistical costs of the programme were as significant as the Report claims — simplification measures largely resulted in bringing legislation together rather than realising real savings;
  • further improvements could be made to the user-friendly nature of the Eurostat website;
  • is committed to fulfilling its statutory obligations, including the statistical outputs it is required to produce under EU legislation; and
  • will continue to press for the realisation of these recommendations through its representation on the European Statistical System Committee, the Economic and Finance Committee Sub-committee on Statistics and other EU statistical fora at all levels.


21.7 Given the importance of both ensuring the quality of statistical data and avoiding excessive burdens on those providing such data we draw these documents to the attention of the House. However they raise no issues that we wish to examine with the Government and we clear them from scrutiny.

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Prepared 26 October 2010