Tuesday, 28 April 1964
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: asked the Taoiseach whether his attention has been directed to a statement by the Tánaiste that a figure of 12,500 given by the Central Statistics Office in respect of emigration last year was a miscalculation; and, if so, (a) whether the statement is correct, (b) how the miscalculation took place, and (c) what the correct figure should be.
Mr. O'Keeffe: asked the Taoiseach whether his attention has been drawn to a recent statement by the Tánaiste that the emigration figures published last year by the Central Statistics Office were inaccurate; how this occurred; and whether, in fact, accurate assessments of yearly emigration can be made during the inter-census periods.
The Central Statistics Office has not recently had to cancel or modify, except to a minor extent, any published emigration statistics or statistics relating to the movements of persons in and out of the country.
I have seen a newspaper report which, I understand from the Tánaiste, took some remarks he made during the  course of a recent debate out of their context. In reply to an allegation that widely differing figures in relation to emigration had been published over the last few months, the Tánaiste said that the latest information published by the Central Statistics Office could be relied upon—and, incidentally, made the point that when the Office discovers that it has made a miscalculation or an incorrect estimate it does not conceal this fact. In the recently-published Economic Statistics—Budget 1964, for instance, former incorrect estimation of the numbers of persons at work was mentioned and corrected estimates given.
Reliable estimates of net emigration over inter-censal periods may be derived from the periodic censuses of population but, as has been stated in reply to questions in this House on many occasions—the latest being on 11th December last—it is not possible to prepare reliable estimates of emigration for other than inter-censal periods.
Over the last two inter-censal periods, however, the net outward passenger balances by sea and air agreed reasonably closely with the estimates of net emigration derived from the censuses. On the assumption that this concordance applies annually, as it did over recent whole five-year periods, it is possible to use the net outward passenger balances by sea and air as indicators of the trend of annual net emigration. They should continue to be a useful indicator until a change takes place in the relative importance of the balance of movements across the Border, which, over the period 1951-1961, seemed to have been small.
In addition, it has to be borne in mind that, if comparisons from year to year are made between the net outward passenger balances for years ending at periods of peak passenger traffic, great distortions may occur. The Central Statistics Office, consequently, uses the figures for the years ended on the last day of February as indicators of the trend of emigration, February being generally a relatively quiet month for passenger traffic.
In the circumstances, I propose, with your permission, Sir, to circulate in  the Official Report a statement showing the net outward passenger balance by sea and air for the years ended on the last day of February, 1958 to 1964.
|Twelve months ended 28-29 Feburary||Net outward passenger balance by sea and air|
Mr. Tully: Is the Taoiseach not aware that what the Tánaiste said was that the figures as published by the Statistics Office for the year ending February, 1963, have been considered inaccurate by the Government and that the Government had asked the Statistics Office to alter the necessary figures?
The Taoiseach: That could not be correct, although I think it is true to say that because of the abnormal weather conditions prevailing in Britain at the beginning of 1963 and the consequently abnormal employment situation there, the figures for that particular 12 months would not be reliable as an indication of the general trend.
Mr. Tully: In view of the fact that that statement was made on a couple of occasions by the Minister for Finance in making his Budget speech last year, would the Taoiseach settle the difference between the Minister for Finance and the Tánaiste who obviously do not agree on the figures now?
Mr. Dillon: It is in principle very undesirable that a public impression should be created that the Government require the Statistics Office to alter their statistics and will he not agree that the initiation of such corrections should arise in the Statistics Office itself?
Mr. Dillon: Would the Taoiseach agree that if the impression were to spread abroad that the Central Statistics Office were now subject to direction by the Government in the preparation of their statistics, their long record of reliability would be seriously prejudiced in the public mind?
Mr. Dillon: Does the Taoiseach not agree, arising out of the present situation, that it is eminently desirable to reassure the public that whatever figures are published by the Central Statistics Office are published independently of any outside influence of the Government or any other source?
The Taoiseach: The Deputy may be assured that the information published by the Central Statistics Office is what they believe to be correct but I am certainly not going to preclude myself from discussing with the Director of the Central Statistics Office the methods of compilation of estimates if, in my opinion, they require to be revised.
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