Supplementary memorandum by the Statistics
1. The Statistics Commission has been set
up to advise on the quality, quality assurance and priority setting
for National Statistics, and on the procedures designed to deliver
statistical integrity, to help ensure National Statistics are
trustworthy and responsive to public needs. It is independent
of both Ministers and producers of National Statistics. As part
of its quality assurance role it will be seeking to commission
pieces of methodological audit and other work from academic and
other experts to inform its judgments.
2. It is still testing out different ways
of working but intends that its choice of areas for substantial
pieces of work should be informed by initial "scoping studies"
which will assess the case for further work and provide clear
terms of reference for the main studies. Some of these will be
undertaken by its own small secretariat and some by external experts.
It is envisaged that all the scoping studies will be published,
perhaps as a series of occasional papers, in line with the Commission's
commitment to work openly and transparently.
3. It is envisaged that this scoping study
can best be carried out by the secretariat with some external
advice/consultation. A fuller follow-up study is likely to require
the commissioning of external expertise.
4. Price indices and deflators are important
constituents of National Statistics, and are widely used in the
construction of many important economic indicators. The Commission
is aware of a number of concerns about price indices and deflators.
Such concerns range from very technical issues relating to the
adjustment of prices for quality changes in areas such as information
and communications technology,
to the role of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in determining
the scope and definition of the Retail Price Index (RPI).
Purpose of study
5. The scoping study shall assess whether,
prima facie, a useful purpose would be served by a substantive
study of methodological and other issues relating to price indices
and deflators produced by ONS.
6. The study shall also take account of
recent and planned internal quality assurance work in this area.
7. A full study would need to take into
account the international perspective but in this limited study,
the international dimension must necessarily be restricted to
any feedback from users, and relevant information thrown up by
the desk research.
8. If the report does conclude that there
is a case for further investigation, it should give an estimate
of the time that would be required to do this thoroughly and guidance
as to the issues, which would need to be addressed. The Commission
would then put the main study out to tender.
Method of working and timing
9. The study will have three phases as regards
obtain from ONS information on the
prices indices and deflators, being produced, and where they are
being used in the production of National Statistics and official
statistics. In addition, details of relevant current and future
development work needs to be made available;
interview a sample of users in order
to ascertain their views on the price indices and deflators which
they use. Such users should be drawn from HMT, and the Bank of
England, and other users within and outside government. Issues
raised should not be restricted to methodological ones;
conduct desk research of publications
and web sites, which will supplement the interviews, in order
to help establish the main issues in the construction of price
indices/deflators. This stage to be determined following study
of information from ONS. It may require some consultation with
price index expert(s) including but not necessarily exclusively
10. The study will be initiated on 4 June
with a meeting between representative(s) of the Commission and
key players from the ONS when required information will be provided
(or arrangements agreed for its provision). It is expected that
the study will take no more than 20 days of secretariat time.
The report will be produced by 30 November 2001. Apart from any
small costs due to travelling/publication purchase, there is a
possibility of utilising a consultant albeit, at this stage, for
a relatively limited consultation.
11. The report will:
1. List the price indices and deflators covered
by the study.
3. Make recommendations on the need for further
study of methodological and/or other issues.
5 For example, ONS, Review of short-term output indicators
(NSQR report No 1), 2000: recommendation R 4.4. Back
For example, Treasury Committee, Second Report 2000-01, National
Statistics (HC 137): recommendation (h). Back