25 Apr 2007

Social Capital Index - Statistics and Registration Service Bill

In the debate on the Statistics and Registration Service Bill in the House of Lords yesterday the issue of social and domestic cohesion was raised:

Baroness Noakes: There is also the question of developing new statistics. For example, the social capital project has been drawn to our attention. Statistics which monitor social and domestic cohesion are much sought after by those active in this field — by which I mean active in helping to cure society’s ills with practical projects on the ground rather than developing policies. A lot of statistics and data are available, but they omit some important information on marriage breakdown and family status at a local level. Many groups think that this is particularly important, and the information has not yet been pulled together in the form of a social capital index, as has been suggested to us. I do not know why that has not been done, and I hope that the Minister can tell us why we have no social capital index or equivalent measure available at local level.

The board should have the needs of users at the heart of its work, and there should be full engagement with them.

This is splendid news!

Needless to say, however, the Minister declined to oblige Baroness Noakes with an answer to her question, "I hope that the Minister can tell us why we have no social capital index or equivalent measure available at local level."

So she tried again!

Baroness Noakes: Perhaps the Minister could answer my specific questions about a social capital index. I asked what was happening with the project on that and why we do not have a social capital index.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: I hope that I can. That was one of the things that I said that we would take away and think about. The information that I have is that the ONS carries out work on social capital, and has done since 2001. The board’s powers, including, at Clause 18, that to produce statistics, would enable it to produce additional work on social capital if necessary. I am told by officials that we will write to the noble Baroness to explain more and to answer any specific points that she has.

Baroness Noakes: I am grateful that the Minister will write because people who we have been in touch with me are particularly concerned about that. I see that those in the Box are smiling. They will do the letter for the Minister; it is not a problem.

The Minister’s response was entirely predictable. Anything that these Benches suggest to improve the Bill and to keep the needs of persons such as users properly in view are regarded not as an improvement but as an unnecessary elaboration, or possibly even unhelpful. I will consider carefully what the Minister said. I look forward to the letter that his officials will draft for him on social capital and I will decide at that stage whether or not I shall return to this issue on Report.

Feisty lady!

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