The Info List - Office For National Statistics

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The OFFICE FOR NATIONAL STATISTICS (ONS) is the executive office of the UK Statistics Authority , a non-ministerial department which reports directly to the UK Parliament .


* 1 Overview * 2 History

* 3 Purpose and scope

* 3.1 Applications of data

* 4 Independence * 5 Heads of the Office and the National Statistician

* 6 Work of the ONS

* 6.1 Data collection * 6.2 Former departments * 6.3 The Blue Book * 6.4 Education of Statisticians * 6.5 Virtual Microdata Laboratory

* 7 Office Locations

* 7.1 Former Headquarters * 7.2 Gradual move of functions to South Wales

* 8 Criticism of the ONS * 9 See also * 10 References * 11 External links


It is charged with the collection and publication of statistics related to the economy, population and society of the UK; responsibility for some areas of statistics in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales is devolved to the devolved governments for those areas. The ONS functions as the executive office of the National Statistician , who is also the UK Statistics
Authority's Chief Executive and principal statistical adviser to the UK's National Statistics
Institute, and the 'Head Office' of the Government Statistical Service (GSS). Its main office is in Newport near the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office and Tredegar House , but another significant office is in Titchfield in Hampshire, and a small office is in London. ONS co-ordinates data collection with the respective bodies in Northern Ireland and Scotland, namely NISRA and NRS .


The ONS was formed on 1 April 1996 by the merger of the Central Statistical Office (CSO) and the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS). Following the Statistics
and Registration Service Act 2007 , the United Kingdom Statistics
Authority became a non-ministerial department on 1 April 2008.


ONS produces and publishes a wide range of the information about the United Kingdom that can be used for social and economic policy-making as well as painting a portrait of the country as its population evolves over time. This is often produced in ways that make comparison with other societies and economies possible. Much of the data on which policy-makers depend is produced by ONS through a combination of a decennial population census, samples and surveys and analysis of data generated by businesses and organisations such as the National Health Service and the register of births, marriages and deaths. Its publications, and analyses by other users based on its published data, are reported and discussed daily in the media as the basis for the public understanding of the country in which they live.


The reliance on some of these data by government (both local and national) makes ONS material central to debates about the determination of priorities, the allocation of resources and for decisions on interest rates or borrowing. The complexity and degree and speed of change in the society, combined with the challenge of measuring some of these (e.g. in relation to longevity, migration or illness patterns or fine movements in inflation or other aspects of national accounts) give rise to periodic debates about some of its indicators and portrayals. Many of these rely on sources which are outside of ONS, while some of its own sources need to be supplemented, for example between censuses, by updated but less rigorously obtained information from other sources. Consequently, unexpected or incomplete data or occasional errors or disputes about its analysis can also attract considerable attention.

ONS data can also be used in epidemiologic studies such as survival analysis .


Gordon Brown
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 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 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 would be directly accountable to Parliament through a more 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 then National Statistician, Dame Karen Dunnell , stated that 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, with the intention of re-establishing faith in the integrity of government statistics, was to take on statutory responsibility for oversight of UK statistics in April 2008 and oversee the Office for National Statistics; also having a duty to assess all UK government statistics. Following Gordon Brown's announcement 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 would be known as the UK Statistics
Authority (UKSA).

In 2012, Andrew Dilnot replaced Michael Scholar as chairman of the Authority.


Since its establishment, ONS has had five Directors: Professor Tim Holt ; Len Cook ; Karen Dunnell ; Jil Matheson ; and, from October 2012, Glen Watson . Len Cook was the first Director to hold the newly created role of National Statistician. The roles of Director of ONS and National Statistician were combined until 2012 when Jil Matheson continued as National Statistician while Glen Watson became Director of the ONS. John Pullinger replaced Jil Matheson as National Statistician (and Chief Executive of the UK Statistics
Authority) in July 2014.


The work of the ONS covers the collection of data and the analysis and publication of statistics covering the economy, population, and society of the UK.

Where data is broken down by geographical area, this is usually done by the areas defined in the ONS geographical coding system .


The principal areas of data collection include:

* Agriculture and Environment * Business and Energy * Children, Education and Skills * Crime and Justice * Economy * Government * Health and Social Care * Labour Market * People and Places * Population * Travel and Transport

Statisticians are also employed by many other Government departments and agencies, and these statisticians often collect and publish data. They are members of the Government Statistical Service and are the professional responsibility of the head of the service, who is also the National Statistician. Each department has a statistical service _Head of Profession_. For example, data on Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry comes primarily from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs . Along with economic data on which the Treasury and Bank of England rely for decision-making, many of the statistics that receive widespread media attention are issued by the Home Office, the Department of Health , and the Department for Education and Skills . ONS is also responsible for the maintenance of the _Inter-Departmental Business Register_ and the _Business Structure Database_.


Prior to the establishment of the UK Statistics Authority , the statistical work of ONS, since June 2000, was scrutinised by the Statistics Commission , an independent body with its own chairman and small staff. This ceased to operate from 1 April 2008. The General Register Office and the post of Registrar-General for England "> while the allocation of Private Finance Initiative expenditure (albeit following OECD
and international statistical guidelines according to who carries the risk) has attracted political attention. Many of the most controversial topics for statistics issued by government do not come from the ONS though they are expected to meet _National Statistics_ standards. Crime statistics, and other data (e.g. health and education) that could be deemed to assess the effectiveness of government policies, often attract media scepticism. The compulsory nature of the census (unlike most other surveys by academics and market researchers) differentiates the ONS from other data collectors (apart from HM Revenue and Customs ).

The Office for National Statistics
won the 2004 Big Brother Award for the "Most Heinous Government Organisation" from the campaigning organisation Privacy International
Privacy International
for its Citizen Information Project . The project is one of several that lead the Information Commissioner to warn that there is a danger of the country "sleepwalking" into a surveillance society .

In December 2012 the organisation's new website to provide statistics to the public was described as "a disaster" by members of parliament on the Public Administration Committee. The chair of the UK Statistics Authority said that significant improvements to the website were being made, but admitted that its state at the time made it "difficult to use, difficult to navigate and difficult to search".


* Departments of the United Kingdom Government * List of national and international statistical services * Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency * United Kingdom Census 2001
United Kingdom Census 2001


* ^ _ UK Statistics Authority Resource Accounts 2009–2010_ (PDF), UK Statistics
Authority, 26 July 2010, retrieved 19 December 2010 * ^ 'National Statistics
Institute' and NSI are a standard expression and its acronym used about statistical services in OECD ">(PDF). Retrieved 27 February 2014. * ^ "United Kingdom National Accounts – The Blue Book". * ^ "The United Kingdom Balance of Payments – The Pink Book.". * ^ "MSc in Official Statistics, University of Southampton". Southampton.ac.uk. Retrieved 27 February 2014. * ^ Welpton, Richard. "Virtual Microdata Laboratory - Access to Confidential Data" (PDF). * ^ "Virtual Microdata Laboratory". _Office for National Statistics_. * ^ Office for National Statistics: location maps, www.ons.gov.uk. Retrieved 24 June 2011. * ^ "Page Not Found - The National Archives". * ^ UK Government properties database, governmentbuildings.co.uk. Retrieved 7 June 2014 * ^ _"Newport to be ONS headquarters"_, National Statistics
news release, 20 September 2004. Retrieved 9 June 2007. * ^ _"The Lyons Review: Independent Review of public sector relocation"_, HM Treasury website. * ^ _ONS moves to new London office_, ONS press release, 16 May 2011. * ^ _"Stats staff \'quitting\' over move"_, news report from the BBC website, 14 May 2007. * ^ Debate on the Statistics
and Registration Service Bill in the House of Lords, 24 April 2007, Hansard, Column 597. * ^ _"Bank of England comments on recent ONS performance"_, a submission made by the Bank of England to the Treasury Sub-Committee inquiry into progress on the efficiency programme in the Chancellor's departments, May 2007. * ^ _"Bank warns on ONS move to Wales"_, news report from the BBC website, 10 May 2007. * ^ _" Statistics
officers get the measure of relocation"_, article by Karen Dunnell, _Financial Times_, 4 June 2007. Retrieved 7 June 2007. * ^ Travis, Alan; editor, home affairs (18 April 2006). "\'Big Brother\' scheme axed" – via The Guardian. * ^ _"Beware rise of Big Brother state, warns data watchdog"_, _The Times_, 16 August 2004. * ^ Parnell, Brid-Aine (13 December 2012). "Shiny new UK.gov stats website a \'disaster\' – MPs". _The Register_. Archived from the original on 16 February 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2013.