Thanks for these comments. I think there are some very good points raised.
I and others in the ONS have spent a long time listening to the debate about GDP and well-being – the recent Indigo Prize competition was a great way of seeing the issues, challenges and suggestions. Well-being is clearly about more than the market economy that GDP measures. We have invested heavily in Sustainable Development Goals and other developments such as natural capital. In fact, we are probably a world leader in development of natural capital – something we are proud about and certainly like to shout about when we have the chance.
I want to reassure you and others that we spend a lot of time engaging with users. On the economic statistics side, our users span a vast range, from the Bank of England and city economists who want to understand the fine detail of the UK's economy, right through to the interested citizen. There is a strong demand for better economic statistics, including GDP.
So I don't think it is improved GDP or these wider measures, we need both. And it is certainly something that we in ONS are working on.
I also agree with you on National Accounts and the System of National Accounts (SNA). The National Accounts framework is helpful for ensuring rigour and the SNA promotes international comparability, which is key. But we should not be prisoners of these systems, and times when it makes sense to publish wider statistics and analysis, we should do so. One example is publishing wider statistics on intangible capital, only some of which are currently capitalised in the National Accounts.
I would, however, disagree on the National Accounts boundary. I see two key reasons for the current boundary: it is (broadly) coherent and produces a GDP that is useful for its current purposes of economic and fiscal policy. There are of course challenges. Public services are tricky as often there is no market for the output, but there are markets for the inputs such as labour.
Underpinning your comments is a clear desire for a structured framework for relating various elements of well being. While your and David's paper is an important contribution, this is still a live area for discussion. There are numerous options here. For example, some might say that sustainable development goals provide a good structure, but others would disagree. At the moment our focus is on doing the underpinning work that ensure we have a strong set of statistics, flexible enough to meet a variety of user needs and possible frameworks.