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Public sector finances: Financial Times, 8 July 2009

A reader's letter in the Financial Times complained that he had difficulty finding material on the size of the national debt on the National Statistics website. The National Statistician wrote to draw his attention to a recently-published series of articles in an ONS journal.

Sir,

With reference to official statistics and the size of the national debt ("Triumph of hope over statistics", Letters, 8 July) may I draw Mr Nokes’ attention to the July edition of the ONS journal Economic & Labour Market Review, which provides an extended discussion of public sector finances and Government liabilities beyond the existing National Accounts boundary. The discussion notes that while estimates of liabilities such as future expenditure under PFI, unfunded pension schemes and government guarantees are disclosed as memorandum items in departmental resource accounts, they are not systematically presented in aggregate form. It also recommends that a wider range of data on government and public sector liabilities be presented by ONS, working with the Bank of England, Treasury and Financial Services Authority.

Dame Karen Dunnell

National Statistician,
Office for National Statistics,
Government Buildings,
Cardiff Road,
Newport NP10 8XG

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