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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 28 Apr 2016

Vol. 907 No. 5

Estimates for Public Services 2016

I move the following Revised Estimate:

Vote 4 — Central Statistics Office (Revised Estimate)

That a sum not exceeding €82,081,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2016, for the salaries and expenses of the Central Statistics Office.

The Central Statistics Office, CSO, is responsible for the collection, processing and publication of official statistics on the economic, social and general conditions in Ireland. While the main focus is to meet statistical requirements of Government, information published by the CSO is also used by other public bodies and by businesses, universities, research institutes and the general public.

There is a significant international dimension to the work of the CSO. The EU institutions, the IMF, the OECD and other international bodies are all important users of official statistics. These bodies also have a significant role in defining and monitoring standards for the compilation of comparable information and the CSO subscribes to the standards set out in the UN fundamental principles of official statistics and the European statistics code of practice.

The net allocation in 2015 amounted to €52.836 million and included preparatory funding for the 2016 census of population. The net allocation for 2016 is €82.081 million. The allocation provides funding for core outputs for the additional significant projects including the 2015-16 household budget survey and the 2016 census of population.

The CSO is also implementing a long-term programme of changes in how it organises household surveys so that it can meet future information needs as efficiently as possible. In 2016 the CSO will publish approximately 300 releases and publications. All of these statistics are published online and members of the public are increasingly aware of, and able to access, statistics and indicators on the social, economic and environmental issues that affect their daily lives. The CSO’s statement of strategy gives priority to delivering the core statistics needed for policy, while keeping a strong focus on cost reduction. The office continues to meet all its commitments under the public service reform programme and is implementing a programme of reform and continuous business process improvement in the collection and processing of statistics.

The CSO is taking a lead role in developing the Irish statistical system by working closely with other Departments and public bodies to promote a more coherent approach to meeting data needs. It has developed a code of practice for the Irish statistical system and is strongly promoting the development of a national data infrastructure, which will provide for better co-ordination and greater exploitation of the rich data sources that are available across the system.

It will also lead to a greater understanding of the importance of data in supporting policy and decision-making and delivering efficiencies in public service provision.

Making better use of data throughout the public sector is an important part of public sector service reform. It contributes to more evidence-informed decision-making and better measurement of policy outcomes. Better co-ordination and greater use of administrative data contributes to reducing the burden on data providers. Since 2008, the CSO has continued to reduce the response burden of its non-agricultural business surveys. When measured from 2008 to 2014, the burden was decreased by 38.8%. This means the target reduction over this timeframe was exceeded by 25%. The CSO Vote for 2016 provides for a total of 843 staff. This represents an increase from 715 in 2015 and reflects the cyclical nature of the work of the office on the census of population. I commend the values and principles which inform the work of the CSO, which makes an important contribution to Ireland's public policy by providing a high quality and, more importantly, independent statistical service.

Well over a month ago, I indicated publicly that in the interim period while no Government is in place, the Opposition will play a constructive role in helping the caretaker Government to process anything through the Dáil that needs to be processed in the national interest. We have the first such decision today. Up to now, we have had several debates without votes. Those debates will continue today and into next week.

However, this is a matter that requires Dáil approval. I am happy to say at the start of this debate that Fianna Fáil will fully support the Estimate before the House because we know it is needed and should be provided for. It relates to the need for the enumerators of the census that was taken last Sunday night to be paid for their work. The substantial costs involved will fall to be paid in May and June. A great deal of work was done last year in preparation for the census. Those costs would have been taken care of prior to this. As the Minister of State has pointed out, there is a level of additional expenditure beyond which Dáil sanction is required. The Estimate for the current year must be approved to enable payments of more than 80% of the previous year's payments to be made. We are here today to give Dáil approval to the CSO Estimate for 2016. Estimates are required in respect of more than 40 Government agencies and Departments. This one has been singled out to be dealt with now because of the urgent need to ensure those who are carrying out census fieldwork can be paid by the end of June.

That brings me on to an interesting point. Given that there will be no requirement to make the payments I have mentioned until the end of June, in many cases, why is this Estimate before us today? I fear that senior people in the public service are concerned that a general election is imminent and a new Dáil might not be in place in time to pass this Estimate. This is the first indication that the permanent Government, as I like to call the Civil Service, is concerned about the possibility of an immediate election. If they do not have a fear of an immediate election - if they are satisfied that a Government is going to be in place in the next week or two - they would be confident that there will be ample time to pass this Estimate without a problem. I suggest we are dealing with it here today because civil servants are concerned about the possibility that the current political talks will not succeed in the next week or two. If the Dáil is dissolved and another election called without this Estimate being considered, it could not be passed until the new Dáil meets at the end of June or the beginning of July. We are now seeing tangible evidence that the Irish public service is genuinely concerned that we will not have a Government. That is why we are here today. I hope the fears of civil servants will be unfounded, that we will have a new Government in the next week or two and everything will carry on smoothly. It is important to explain why we are dealing with this matter today.

We all got our census forms in recent weeks. I filled out our form at home last Sunday night. I would encourage everybody to do likewise. People should support the census by completing their forms fully and accurately as early as possible. I encourage all the enumerators and supervisors to get the information back so it can be processed as soon as possible.

I would like to put a question to the CSO staff through the Minister of State. He might not have an answer for it today. In so doing, I would like to put the CSO on formal notice that it will be brought before an Oireachtas committee in due course to discuss its operation. I do not know which committee will deal with these matters. The Minister of State might give us the total cost of the census. Some costs were incurred last year. There are costs to be incurred this year. Some processing costs will run into next year. Can the Minister of State give us a timescale for when we will have the provisional population figures? I do not mind if he does not have an answer to that question today. If he does have it, that is well and good. If not, maybe we will deal with the matter at an Oireachtas committee in due course. Does the CSO have any information on how many households are likely not to complete their census forms? I know there were some prosecutions the last time. I am guessing that at least 1% or 2% of people do not answer their doors, perhaps because the enumerators are unable to get past their electronic gates. Some houses might look a bit derelict. In some cases, people do not co-operate. Has there been any change in that pattern relative to previous occasions? Are there any groups in Irish society that are less willing than others to fill out their census forms? I think we all know that different groups have differing approaches. The Minister of State might outline his views on that.

I fully appreciate the need for a census. It is right that we have one every five years. We cannot plan our schools, hospitals, road networks or infrastructure without proper statistical information. Portlaoise and other towns will get new secondary schools in due course because of projected population increases. It is important to know about such increases because it allows for proper planning. I think everybody supports that. Politicians always have a keen eye on the census because it affects boundary changes. The Constitution provides that there should be one Member of the Dáil for every group of between 20,000 and 30,000 people in a given area. They do not have to be citizens or voters. That has to be taken into account when boundaries are being reviewed. The Minister of State might give us an indication in that regard although I know that electoral boundaries are the responsibility of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government rather than the Minister of State. In light of what we have seen from the outgoing Minister in the last 48 hours, I hope we have a better-mannered Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in the next Government.

Hopefully the next Minister will address this issue at the earliest possible stage after the census information is made available. I think people will be keen to know whether any changes are to be made. The Minister of State might talk to us briefly about parts of the country where many people stay in hotels but are not residents. Does the presence of many hotels in certain areas affect the population statistics and consequently the number of Dáil seats? I am always looking at Dublin Central, where the population as shown in the census is out of sync with the number of people on the voting register, especially by comparison with other areas. I wonder whether this is because people who are staying in city centre hotels are counted for the purposes of the constituency of Dublin Central even though they really have nothing to do with the constituency. I would like the Minister of State to respond to this interesting issue I have raised.

I will move away from the census to raise a serious question for the CSO. As I have said, the CSO will be brought before an Oireachtas committee in due course to discuss its ongoing work and, specifically, the biggest issue it faces. I was at the Estimates meeting this time last year, when the Taoiseach took the Estimate on behalf of the Minister of State, who could not be there on the day in question. We had a detailed discussion about the role of the CSO in relation to the EUROSTAT tests for Irish Water. I think it was a bad hour for the CSO. I refer to the failure of an application that was made on the basis of information that was submitted by the CSO to EUROSTAT on behalf of the Irish people and the Government. When we are learning about everything else that happens, we must find out why the brains and intelligence of the qualified people in the CSO who made this submission ended up being on the wrong side of EUROSTAT. We will come back to this issue in detail before an Oireachtas committee on Irish Water eventually comes to meet. The Taoiseach wrote to an Oireachtas committee on 28 February 2015 in response to issues that had been raised by members of the committee early last year during a lengthy debate that had taken place in the context of the CSO Estimates. In particular, he responded to some issues I had raised during the meeting. I want to read a paragraph from the letter of 28 February 2015 that was sent by the Taoiseach to Liam Twomey, who was the Chairman of the committee that was dealing with the Estimates at the time.

It states:

In addition, Deputy Fleming queried when EUROSTAT will complete its work. A review of the Irish Water business case for the purposes of the sector classification of Irish Water in the National Accounts is currently being carried out by the Government Finance Statistics (GFS) division of the CSO.

In response to my question about the people carrying out that work, it states:

The work is being undertaken by a team comprising three statisticians (1 accountant and 2 economists) and the senior statistician in the area. The senior statistician and two of the statisticians have received Eurostat training in GFS/Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) methodology which encompasses the classification process.

It also states one of the statisticians provides training on GFS topics with the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and has delivered GFS training courses internationally.

The response continues:

While each classification process has its own particular complexities, the classification of publicly controlled entities for the market/non-market status is a relatively routine occurrence in the compilation of GFS and all members of the team are fully familiar with the criteria for the classification of public bodies.

That was the response of the Taoiseach by letter last year to the select sub-committee. The outcome was a failure. EUROSTAT did not see it the way the Department did. I tried to access further information during the course of last year, including by way of parliamentary question, in response to which I received a direct reply from Mr. Pádraig Dalton, director general of the Central Statistics Office, which stated:

With regard to the sector classification of Irish Water ... When the classification decision is finalised by Eurostat, an account of the process in as much detail as is consistent with statutory requirements for statistical confidentiality will be published.

Essentially, his response to my parliamentary question was that it was a sealed process.

I welcome the ongoing work of the CSO on the census. However, the outcome of the EUROSTAT application was not good. This is an issue the House will have to revisit because we must ensure that when the CSO makes applications on behalf of Ireland, the well trained staff can get the right result.

Tá sé go maith go bhfuilimid ag déanamh plé arís ar an gceist thábhachtach maidir le bailiúchán staitistic an Stáit chun déanamh cinnte go bhfuil plean ceart glactha amach anseo maidir le tithíocht agus maidir le conas a bheith cinnte go bhfuil pleanáil cheart déanta ar an gcóras ina iomlán nó ar an infreastruchtúr ina iomlán a bhfuil daoine ag brath air. Is trua nach ndearnadh go dtí seo é.

I welcome this debate on the Central Statistics Office. Theoretically, the census concluded on Sunday and all that remains to be done is to collect the forms. I accept that there are significant costs associated with the distribution and collection of the forms and that processing of the data is an additional cost on each occasion statistics are collected. There are recurring costs in respect of the household budget survey. What we do with these statistics is key. The data circulated indicate that progress, in ensuring the availability of data, is being made. The impact indicators for the number of releases of data in the past three years and the number of visits to the CSO's website show a substantial decrease between 2013 and 2015. Perhaps the Minister of State might be able to explain the reason in 2013, for example, there were approximately 2.5 million visits to the website but only approximately 1.25 million in 2014 and 2015. That suggests the CSO needs to undertake some work in publicising its website and the wealth of information available online such that it becomes the central hub for statistics for every other organisation. The impact indicators for other services also show a substantial decrease on the 2013 figures.

It is important that politicians, planners, educationists and, in particular, local authorities use the information available. We have had many discussions in this Chamber and politics generally on spatial strategies. If we do not properly utilise the tools available, namely, the statistics, we can get it wrong and have done so during the years. The census provides information every ten years on the number of schoolgoing children in a particular location which, with other information, allows us to react quickly to the need to provide additional schools, housing, roads, water networks and so on. It also provides indicators of possible future growth areas.

Last year I took part in a programme that involved the twinning of politicians from all parties with professors and lecturers in Maynooth University. The programme has gone a little haywire owing to the general election. The person with whom I was twinned worked in the mapping area. It was enlightening to see what could be done with statistics, if used correctly, in planning for the future. It is vital that not only we agree to the Supplementary Estimate but also we ensure that other needs of the Central Statistics Office for additional funding are identified and addressed now. While we may not feel the effects of any shortfall now, we will into the future. It is important that the CSO has whatever expertise it requires.

We have often discussed in this House the need for the electoral commission to be put on a statutory footing. It could utilise the census data to identify the number of people in the State aged over 18 years and whether they are on the electoral register in the proper area.

I have had difficulty during the years in accessing particular statistics. While most statistics are available from the Oireachtas Library, I do not think pre-1950 data are. Perhaps the Minister of State might clarify the position. While I eventually found most of the data I needed, accessing it was difficult.

The commemoration programme for this year has ended. I have previously argued that, in the main, census information should not be released inside a 100-year timeframe. Given that people are living longer, we may need to consider whether an increase in that figure is required. At the very least, given the 15-year gap between the 1911 census undertaken by the British and the first census carried out in the new State, it would be appropriate to examine whether information within that timeframe should be released earlier given its historical value, in particular, information on the 1916 Rising and the First World War. Many Irish people died in fighting on the fields of France and Belgium, in particular.

I believe that would reflect a complete shift in the make up of our society.

We then had the Tan War, the Civil War thereafter and all the other major events, including 1916 as well as continuing emigration. From the statistics that are currently available, we do not have a grasp of what the full effect was on different families, down to the individuals. It would be useful if we could look again at releasing that information coming up to the commemorative period around the end of the First World War and the start of war here in Ireland. Those figures would be very useful for historians, but also for many families. One of the surprising things for me - even though I always believed people were interested - was the number of people who have looked at the military pension service records since they were released by the State. People want to find out about their families and what happened to them at that stage. The release of the 1926 figures earlier than 2026 would be useful. There is a cost involved and it is not going to happen this year. Perhaps the Minister could look at it and indicate to the CSO that there is political support - as far as I remember from previous debates on this - and that we might prepare for an early release of that information.

I welcome the Revised Estimate and the opportunity to speak on it. Hopefully, as we go forward over the next year, the figures can be released as early as possible. The CSO has been very good at releasing figures of late. We must ensure that when they are released, they do not sit on a shelf but are used by those who are required to use it, particularly city and county planners and the Department of Education and Skills.

Tugaim faoi ndeara nach bhfuil ach beirt eile ag ofráil ag an bpointe seo. Is iad Teachtaí Richard Boyd Barrett agus Catherine Murphy an bheirt sin.

The work of the CSO is very important to allow for planning in key areas like housing, health and education. The information it gathers in the course of the census and the various other reports, publications and surveys that it carries out are of huge importance and make a great contribution, which should help to underpin proper planning by politicians and other Departments. I fully understand the need for the Revised Estimate and I am happy to support it.

I have one question about the cost surrounding the census. When the census of 2011 was taken, I raised the issue of CACI International, which had been contracted by the CSO to do some of the work on the last census and a number of previous censuses, which I think was described as "capturing the statistics". I believe that in the 2011 census, it was a subsidiary of CACI International, CACI UK, that was contracted to assist in some of the work of the census. As I pointed out then, I was quite alarmed. It was brought to my attention by the fact that CACI International was implicated in providing interrogators - 60 employees, to be precise - to work in Abu Ghraib in Iraq doing so-called "interrogation" between 2003 and 2005. These enhanced interrogation techniques that were used in Abu Ghraib are, for most people, generally understood to be torture. There were huge scandals around what went on in Abu Ghraib.

I myself was involved in bringing a whistleblower who had been an interrogator for the US military, a young man called Joshua Casteel, to this country to speak about his experience working in Abu Ghraib, where he exposed the shocking torture tactics that were employed by the US military, the CIA and contractors that they had brought in to torture people in Abu Ghraib. CACI International were involved in this. CACI International subsequently said that the people involved were no longer employed by it and so on but, for me, that certainly puts a very serious question mark over this company and its ethical standards. I would like to know whether it is involved in the census again. The fact that it was a UK subsidiary of CACI International was also used as an excuse, but it is wholly owned. It is the same company. I believe that in doing something as important as the census, we should have very ethical criteria and parameters when it comes to deciding what companies we would sub-contract to do work. I would like to hear reassurances from the Minister of State and from the CSO that this company is not being used again in the 2016 census. We should not give sucker, support or legitimacy in any way to companies that were implicated in torture in Iraq or anywhere else.

I wish to make a point regarding EUROSTAT and the CSO. This is not to take away from the outstanding work the CSO does and some of the excellent reports, information and statistics that it provides. However, it is a mystery to me how the CSO concluded that Irish Water was going to pass the EUROSTAT market test while EUROSTAT decided otherwise. We need an explanation of what happened there. This is hugely important. It is at the centre of the dispute around Irish Water. It was referenced by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, yesterday, when he said that it was unprecedented that the CSO was at odds with EUROSTAT when the CSO was effectively the Irish subsidiary of the European statistical system.

This all might seem very technical but there is a very important issue at stake at the centre of it. Who is right and who is wrong? The answer to that tells us who is telling the truth about the likely privatisation, or otherwise, of Irish Water. What EUROSTAT said was that the State subsidy to Irish Water was at such a level that it was not really a commercial entity and, therefore, could not borrow off the balance sheet. The whole rationale for setting up Irish Water was that it could borrow off the balance sheet. That is why we needed it so that it would not go on the books of the State in terms of our debt and deficit. However, EUROSTAT said this was not possible. The level of State subsidy required to provide the conservation grant and to put a cap on the charges was such that it was not a commercial entity and that it therefore had to go on the State balance sheet. Critically, therefore, if Irish Water is or was to continue, in order to pass the EUROSTAT test it would have to be privatised. It would have to increase the charges so that the revenue stream coming in from user charges would be higher while the level of State support, public ownership and control would have to be reduced.

This is the argument we always made. Even if, for political reasons in the face of mass popular protests, the Government put in the conservation grant, a bribe, and claimed it was going to retain Irish Water in public ownership and put caps on charges, in reality those things would have to be got rid of two or three years down the line in order to pass the EUROSTAT test and to get it off balance sheet, and it would have to be privatised. That is the truth and EUROSTAT confirmed it. The Minister, Deputy Brendan Howlin, the Government and everybody else in the House knows that damn well. It could not pass the market test unless State support was removed and it was, effectively if not wholly, privatised with the charges being jacked up.

Absolutely, the CSO has questions to answer. The Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, can shake his head all he likes but the people were fooled once on the issue of bin charges when we were told that introducing charges would not lead inevitably to privatisation as we predicted it would. Of course, it did. EU market rules were cited by private companies that demanded to get into the market, undermine the public system and force its privatisation. It was absolutely inevitable. Indeed, it is written into the EU treaties as anyone who wishes to read the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and its state aid rules can see. There is a question for the CSO as to how it was at odds with EUROSTAT and did not flag that fact. Its analysis of Irish Water seemed to comply with what was a political imperative for Fine Gael and the Labour Party to try to sell Irish Water to a very sceptical and oppositional public.

My last point is on the use of statistics. Notwithstanding the criticism I have made, the CSO produces brilliant statistics but does anybody pay any attention to them? Does the Government pay any attention to these statistics? Clearly, it did not pay any attention to them when it came to demographic trends and housing need. We had that confirmed by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government in documents recently publicised in the media which showed that the housing crisis we now have was eminently predictable. Anybody looking at the demographic trends, population growth and so on could have seen it coming. The failure to properly explain statistics often allows a certain trick to be played by Governments which say that, year on year, they have spent more than any other Government on housing, health and education without explaining that it is because the population is growing. It is not really more expenditure when one breaks it down across the number of people for whom that expenditure is being spent. Let us be honest, read the statistics, plan on the basis of the statistics and be honest about their significance.

We have always been honest.

I ask the Minister of State to restrain himself.

No one in the Chamber will dispute that people doing the work of distributing and collecting the census forms should be paid. Of course they should be paid. What we are being asked to do is approve that, which I certainly have no difficulty doing. I wonder why that was not approved earlier and why we are doing it now when we knew the work would have to be done.

Obviously, we all encourage people to fill in their forms and get them back but there is a confusion. I do not know if people pick it up from time to time. People say to me "I filled in the census form so why am I not on the electoral register?" It happens all the time. The issue of confidentiality is not being made clear, if people think it can be used for that purpose. There must be a doubt. If that is a reason people have a doubt or do not fill in the forms, we must be very clear. Every time there is a census, I hear that said.

Obviously, the value in the census is to gather information, plan for services and look for trends. The 100-year rule is one that has been put in place so that people can feel confident about their information being private. However, I consider 100 years to be too long. The commitment made in the previous programme for Government to release the 1926 census should have been followed up. In other countries, 70 years is the benchmark, albeit there is a variety of approaches internationally, with some countries destroying the census after the information has been gathered. From an historical point of view, the 1926 census is an important one, as Deputy Ó Snodaigh has said, and I agree completely that it should be released early given that it will take time to digitise. It is more important from an historical than a genealogical point of view but we have seen the value of the 1911 and 1901 censuses and the fine work done by the National Archives on that project.

Gathering the information to plan for public services is the central reason for the census. From 1821 to 1971, the information was gathered every ten years, with the exception of 1921, and every five years thereafter with a blip when the census was gathered in 1979. As such, there has been no shortage of information gathered over a very long period. However, we have been appalling at using that information to deliver public services, as evidenced by a whole range of different things. Policy does not flow from it which it must if we are going to take an evidence-based approach to decision making. Children are included on the census taken every five years and as such, one can pretty well predict trends. Nevertheless, we see near surprise when a school is needed in a particular location. Things are not as bad as they used to be but policy, institutional arrangements and physical buildings are still not flowing as they should from the information gathered. The other issue involves demographic trends and class sizes. If one can see that there is consistent growth in an area where there is a disproportionately young population and housing is built for those working nearby, one can predict that local schools will require additional teachers. However, there are parts of the country with historically high class sizes in proportion to the rest of the country. These are areas where there has been consistent and rapid population growth. What we do is to place an historical model on the distribution of teachers which means that what a school gets depends on what size its classes were in the previous year even where it is known that the trend is upwards. That is bad planning and it militates against children in areas where there is high population growth.

Indeed, one sees the same thing happening in other areas, including traffic management. We are asking people if they go to work on a motorbike, in a car or on foot. We have been asking that question for years but we do not follow it through. It is an origin and destination study on a grand scale and yet we do not seem to be able to plan a sustainable transport system which is matched to the actual figures. Housing is another area. We will be able to see the vacancy rate from the census and gather the statistics but the issue of critical importance is using those statistics appropriately.

On our health services, we are invited on the census form to describe our health and one can see the national age profile. One would imagine that would give one a rough idea of care needs and health needs. One must ask why we are gathering this information.

While I encourage people to fill in and hand back their census forms, we must stop simply gathering statistics and start using them. The same applies in the case of broadband. It was a missed opportunity not to place new questions on the census form. We must consider what issues must be planned for in order to meet future needs. The mixture of technology and data provides great opportunities for planning now and into the future and allows for a broader range of activities based on the statistics.

Unfortunately, one issue will be a feature of the census information that is being gathered. The 1841 census set the population at 8.1 million people. If I remember correctly, the population of England, Scotland and Wales was 18 million in the same year and New York's was 330,000 or 350,000. We now have a population of less than 4.5 million whereas England, Scotland and Wales are approaching 60 million and New York city has approximately 10 million to 12 million. The main story of our census is that we continue to leak our population to other parts of the world. We never have the critical mass to deliver the kinds of public service required by large populations. The age profile of the people at work is also disproportionate relative to the number of dependants. This will create problems with paying pensions as our population ages.

If these factors scream anything, it is that we need to grow and retain the population and do things differently, for example, how we develop the regions. These are not dry statistics but the story of our population since the day census taking began. One can confidently predict that the current census will show a continuing outflow. We will never redress the situation unless we learn the lesson that we need to grow the population. The census figures show our country's history of emigration. There is a point at which that must stop.

Deputies raised a number of queries, which I will revert to after making my closing remarks. If I do not respond to an issue, I will have my officials reply directly to the Deputies who raised them.

I thank the Deputies for their participation in this debate. I also commend the staff of the CSO on the valuable work undertaken to produce high quality and independent statistics across a range of economic and social indicators. As the House will be aware, this year the census took place on 24 April. It is right that we acknowledge the significance of the census and the data that it provides. The census is the CSO's largest and best known project and census 2016 will provide a wealth of valuable data on life in Ireland today. While the full suite of census results for 2016 will be published in the course of 2017, preliminary results are expected to be made available this July, approximately 12 weeks after census day. It is intended to publish the census small area statistics online and make the census figures available in the form of online maps. Throughout these reports, the CSO will provide more interpretation, analysis and illustration of the census results. All of the results will be available online at

In addition to the census, the CSO produces a wide range of statistics, including short-term economic indicators and statistics on industry, services, agriculture, the national accounts, trade and balance of payments, the labour force and social statistics. A key challenge is to meet the demand for regular statistics while reducing costs, improving business processes and reducing the burden on survey respondents.

The CSO issues approximately 300 releases and publications each year. These include the regular monthly and quarterly statistics on the economy and society, for example, the consumer price index, the retail sales index, industrial and service sector production, the quarterly national household survey and the monthly live register.

As the House will be aware, where Estimates have not yet been approved, the so-called four fifths rule applies. As outlined in section B1.2.2. of the public financial procedures, the Central Fund (Permanent Provisions) Act 1965 authorises Departments or offices to spend up to four fifths of their budgets of the previous year. While this rule is normally sufficient where a steady state of expenditure applies, difficulties can arise if a large one-off or infrequent expenditure item occurs. In the case of the CSO, the fact that census 2016 is taking place means that the four fifths rule is insufficient to provide for expenditure already incurred and expected to arise in the coming weeks.

The CSO's Vote allocation for 2016 amounts to €82.081 million and makes provision for the costs associated with the census. As last year's budget was €52.836 million, the four fifths rule will only permit the office to spend €42.269 million in 2016 without the Vote's approval by Dáil Éireann. Increased expenditure in the early part of this year relates to the running of census 2016 and includes approximately €10 million as a final payment to census enumerators scheduled for payment in June.

Deputy Fleming asked about the total cost of census 2016, which is approximately €53 million. We will have preliminary results in July. As to the enumerators, the CSO is good at using people who are on the live register, as it is aware that they would like to gain employment. There are 50 senior managers, 430 field supervisors and approximately 4,700 enumerators, with 80 temporary clerical officers in the processing centre in Swords who will process the information in the coming weeks. Enumerators are paid €100 per week before getting the rest of their payment on the week ending 24 June at the conclusion of the data collection. In the circumstances, the House is being asked to agree the CSO Estimate in order to avoid a situation where either legitimate payments must be delayed or a breach of the legislation governing expenditure occurs.

Some Deputies referred to a number of the companies involved, including Deputy Boyd Barrett. I addressed this matter in the House during the previous census. I will ensure that the Deputy gets full and detailed correspondence from the CSO on how the tendering process was done, its level of independence, etc. The same company was involved in the previous census. The Deputy raised concerns about this matter previously, so the full correspondence will be sent to his office.

Other Deputies raised the issue of the 100-year rule. I feel strongly about it, as it is important. The census is used for specific reasons. While it is great to look back on past censuses and some assert that we should release the information sooner, the 100-year rule should apply. It exists for a specific reason and should stand. Mention was made of releasing information early for 2016 but we must stick to the rule, as it exists for reasons of confidentiality.

I thank the Deputies for their thoughts and contributions.

Deputy Sean Fleming raised the issue of EUROSTAT. It has been raised at committee level on numerous occasions and there have been many hours of debate on it in the Chamber and at committee level. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the discussion on the Estimates last year owing to a personal issue and the Taoiseach took the debate on my behalf. I have no doubt that the issue of EUROSTAT will be raised if we are to believe what we are told will happen in the coming weeks, namely, the establishment of a commission on Irish Water. It would be a far better space in which to make a contribution.

Vote put and agreed to.