UK Statistics Authority
The UK Statistics Authority (Welsh: Awdurdod Ystadegau'r DU) is an independent body operating at arm's length from Government as a non-ministerial department, directly accountable to Parliament. It was established on 1 April 2008 by the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.
Formally, the UK Statistics Authority has two main functions: oversight of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), replacing the oversight role previously performed by HM Treasury ministers; and independent monitoring and assessment of official statistics, maintaining a Code of Practice for Official Statistics and accrediting Code-compliant statistics as 'National Statistics'. However, the chair can also act to comment on perceived misuse of official statistics by persons responsible or accountable for them. The assessment function has an operational role of producing reports on code compliance of specific sets of national statistics, and also a role making more strategic recommendations for the improvement of statistical outputs, in terms of both the presentation and coverage of official statistics as well as monitoring public trust in government statistics. Indeed the original provisions had three roles listed: governance of ONS; assessment against and enforcement of a code of practice; and to report on the quality and comprehensiveness of Official statistics across government and non-departmental government bodies.
The UKSA has reported on the need to improve commentary supporting the release of official statistics, and the procedures and extent of pre-release access to official statistics by government ministers. The authority has also produced reports on the impact of cuts to specific statistical activity, such as the citizenship survey, especially where these changes affect users in other bodies. Other reports focus on statistics relating to a particular sector such as health and charities both of which have relevant data collected by more than one government body. A specific stream of work has been on user engagement, identifying the uses of official statistics and the extent to which the needs of users are taken into account by producers.
Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced on 28 November 2005, that the government intended to publish plans in early 2006 to legislate to render the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the statistics it generates independent of government on a model based on the independence of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England. This was originally a 1997 Labour Party manifesto commitment and was also the policy of the Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties. Such independence was also sought by the Royal Statistical Society and the Statistics Commission. The National Statistician, who is the chief executive of the ONS, would be directly accountable to Parliament through a widely-constituted independent governing Statistics Board. The ONS would be a non-ministerial government department so that the staff, including the Director, would remain as civil servants but without being under direct ministerial control. The National Statistician at the time, Karen Dunnell, stated that the legislation would help improve public trust in official statistics although the ONS already acts independently according to its own published guidelines, the National Statistics Code of Practice, which sets out the key principles and standards that official statisticians, including those in other parts of the government statistical service, are expected to follow and uphold.
The details of the plans for independence were considered in Parliament during the 2006/2007 session and resulted in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. In July 2007, Sir Michael Scholar was nominated by the government to be the three day-a-week non-executive chairman of the Statistics Board which, to re-establish faith in the integrity of government statistics, will take on statutory responsibility for oversight of UK statistics and will oversee the Office for National Statistics. It will also have a duty to assess all UK government statistics. Following Gordon Brown's later announcement on his 2007 appointment as Prime Minister of new constitutional arrangements for public appointments, Sir Michael also became, on 18 July, the first such nominee to appear before the House of Commons Treasury Committee and to have his nomination subject to confirmation by the House. On 7 February 2008, following the first meeting of the shadow board, it was announced that it will thereafter be known as the UK Statistics Authority.
Board Members of the UK Statistics Authority
Sir Andrew Dilnot CBE
Six non-executive members were appointed through open competition:
- Professor Sir Adrian Smith FRS, deputy chairman responsible for governance of the Office for National Statistics
- Professor David Rhind CBE FRS FBA, deputy chairman with responsibility for oversight of the UK official statistics system
- Dr Colette Bowe
- Mr Partha Dasgupta
- Ms Carolyn Fairbairn
- Dame Moira Gibb CBE
- Prof David Hand OBE
- Dr David Levy.
The Authority's membership also includes three executive members:
- Jil Matheson, the National Statistician and head of the Government Statistical Service
- Richard Alldritt, the Authority's Head of Assessment, responsible for the independent assessment of official statistics
- Glen Watson, ONS Director General.
The term of office of the previous chair, Sir Michael Scholar, ended on 31 March 2012.