The Statistics Authority, the
Treasury and the Cabinet Office
3. In July 2006, we reported on the Government's
consultation paper, Independence for statistics, which
set out proposals to replace the current ONS with an independent
statistics office, to be established as a non-ministerial department
and governed by an independent board.
Following the Government's consultation and our Report, Independence
for statistics, Parliament passed the Statistics and Registration
Services Act 2007. Prior to the commencement of the Statistics
and Registration Services Act, the ONS was the central producer
of statistics in the United Kingdom. The ONS was an Executive
Agency accountable to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
It was headed by the National Statistician who was concurrently
the Registrar General for England and Wales. Therefore, the General
Register Office (GRO), which administers the system for the registration
of births, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships in England
and Wales, was also part of the ONS. The ONS was also responsible
for the creation and maintenance of the National Health Service
Central Register (NHSCR).
4. The Statistics and Registration Services Act provided
for the creation of a new body, the UK Statistics Authority. The
Act established the Statistics Authority as a Non-Ministerial
Department, composed of a majority of non-executive members. As
recommended in our Report, Independence for statistics,
the Authority's responsibilities cover the whole UK statistical
system, including England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
However, the Authority is not responsible for the development
of future censuses in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
5. The Statistics Authority is the legal successor
body to the ONS. Therefore the ONS's responsibilities other than
those relating to civil registration have transferred to the new
Statistics Authority. The Statistics Authority also has powers
to produce statistics, provide statistical services and promote
statistical research. It will undertake the statistical functions
of the Registrar General, including the preparation and publication
of the census. The Statistics Commission closed on 31 March 2008
as the Statistics Authority became responsible to Parliament for
building trust in UK statistics. The Statistics Authority Board
has a statutory role replacing Ministers as the top governance
layer for the ONS, as the body to whom the National Statistician
will report directly. The Statistics Authority has three main
- oversight of the ONS, its executive
- monitoring and reporting on all official statistics,
wherever produced, and
- independent assessment of official statistics.
6. Statistics ceased to be a Treasury responsibility
on 1 April 2008, when the new Statistics Authority assumed its
functions and residual Ministerial responsibility passed from
HM Treasury to the Cabinet Office. The new Statistics Authority
was established with a "statutory objective to promote and
safeguard the production and publication of official statistics
that serve the public good; and the quality and comprehensiveness
of, and good practice in relation to, official statistics across
7. Following the transfer of residual Ministerial
responsibility to the Cabinet Office, the Treasury Select Committee's
role in the scrutiny of statistics has passed to the Public Administration
Select Committee. In our Report, Independence for statistics,
we rehearsed the arguments for the transfer to the Cabinet Office.
this Report presents our
final consideration of the work of the Office for National Statistics
and its effectiveness in counting the population, except insofar
as they relate to our scrutiny of economic indicators.