The New Arrangements
4. The concept of National Statistics lies at the
heart of the Government's reforms. National Statistics have been
defined as those which "will provide an accurate, up-to-date,
comprehensive and meaningful description of the UK economy and
National Statistics include both statistical outputs and the underlying
data sets which produce them. The initial scope of National Statistics
encompasses all of the existing public access databases and publications
of the ONS and many statistics produced by other departments.
The quality, integrity and transparency of National Statistics
are guaranteed by the National Statistician. This new post replaces
that of Director of the ONS and head of the Government Statistical
Service (GSS) and Mr Cook, the first National Statistician, explained
that "the framework arrangements ... define more clearly
the explicit role of the National Statistician on professional
matters" when compared to the previous situation.
The final key new element is the Statistics Commission, a new
non-departmental public body, "independent of both Ministers
and the producers of National Statistics",
which will audit the quality and integrity of National Statistics.
5. The new arrangements for National Statistics have
received a guarded welcome. The Statistics Users' Council told
us that "the Government has taken a bold initiative in setting
up a National Statistics service that facilitates democratic debate
and provides the public with the basis not only for entering into
the discussion of major policy issues, but also passing judgement
on the performance of Government itself" although it warned
that "whether we advance slowly or rapidly will depend on
the funds made available".
The Society of Business Economists wrote of "considerable
real achievements in recent years".
The British Retail Consortium said that it was "broadly supportive
of the Framework for National Statistics" and the Royal Statistical
Society described the new arrangements as "the first steps
towards establishing ... a national statistical service".
Sir John Kingman, Chairman of the Statistics Commission, told
us in oral evidence that "the long-term effect of the changes
[to official statistics] will take some time to emerge and I think
the jury is still out".
9 Statistics: A Matter of Trust, HM Treasury,
Feb 98, Cm3882; Building Trust in Statistics, HM Treasury,
Oct 99, Cm4412; HC Deb, 19 Oct 99, cc287-318 Back
Framework for National Statistics, First Edition, ONS,
Jun 00 (hereafter Framework), which included the Initial
Qq230-1, 296 Back
Framework, paragraph 1.1 Back
See paragraph 6 Back
Framework, paragraph 2.2 Back
App 4 Back
App 2, section III Back
App 5, summary and App 3, paragraph 1.1 Back