COMMONS

PACAC to examine performance of UK Statistics Authority in new inquiry

19 December 2018

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee today launches a new inquiry, examining the role and performance of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA).

Background

Created as an independent body in 2008, UKSA has a statutory objective to promote and safeguard official statistics that ‘serve the public good’. It exists to inform the public, help develop and evaluate policy, regulate the quality and challenge the misuse of statistics.

UKSA’s remit covers the Government Statistical Service, the Office for National Statistics, and the Office for Statistics Regulation, which together make the UK’s official statistics system, with a stated mission “to mobilise the power of data to help Britain to make better decisions.”

In its inquiry, the Committee will examine whether this mission is being achieved, UKSA’s wider performance since it was formed, and the challenges it is likely to face in the future.

Details of evidence sessions will be announced in due course.

Terms of reference

The Committee currently welcomes written submissions on the matter. These should address some or all of the following questions, giving concrete examples wherever possible:

1. How well are the structures established by the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 working? 

a. What has UKSA achieved over the last 10 years? 
b. Has the 2007 Act succeeded in assuring the independence of official statistics? 
c. Does anything in the legislation need to be changed?

2. Does the UKSA Board intervene effectively in the statistical system, addressing problems with appropriate urgency?

a. How well does the UKSA Board understand current and emerging issues?
b. The ‘Bean Review’ highlighted shortcomings in economic statistics. Is UKSA doing enough to tackle problems with other areas of official statistics, such as health, education, migration and crime?

3. How effectively does UKSA perform its regulatory function through the Office of Statistical Regulation (OSR)? 

a. Is there sufficient compliance of statistics with the Code of Practice?
b. Is the new Code of Practice effective and should it include administrative and other forms of data? 
c. How can UKSA best counterbalance the incentives for public bodies to present data and statistics in ways that show them in a good light? 

4. How effective is the Government Statistical Service (GSS) model in ensuring that official statistics are independent and accurately reflect performance while being responsive to the needs of public bodies?

a. What skills do GSS statisticians need to influence good use of statistics by public bodies?
b. Does UKSA have sufficient influence over the recruitment, training and career paths of GSS statisticians?
c. How could the roles of Heads of Practice and GSS statisticians be strengthened?

5. How well do UKSA and statisticians at all levels of the system engage in dialogue with current and potential users of official statistics?

a. Does UKSA understand the needs and concerns of all user types?
b. What mechanisms are effective in engaging users and how can they be used more widely?

6. Are official statistics easy for users to access, understand and use in making decisions?

a. How well does UKSA curate statistics from ONS and other sources?

7. The world is transforming fast as a result of technological and social change. How well does UKSA anticipate the future data needs of decision makers and plan to close gaps?

a. How visible are the forward programmes of UKSA, ONS, OSR and GSS?

8. Does UKSA create an effective environment for innovation and improvement in the statistical system?

a. How well does UKSA translate vision into the practice expected of statisticians in their day-to-day roles? 

9. Has the Digital Economy Act 2017 removed the obstacles to effective exploitation of administrative data? 

a. What sharing of data and data linkage are happening in government?
b. Is the right capability in place to make best use of big data, artificial intelligence and other developing technologies?
c. How well integrated are the roles of statisticians with other data professionals across government?  

10. What role should UKSA play in areas such as data policy and data ethics and how well does it engage with the parts of government responsible for these areas?

11. How well does UKSA promote and enhance statistical literacy across government, Parliament and the general public?

 

Further information

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