PASC calls for legislation to control pre-release access to statistics

The practice of allowing ministers and officials to see government statistics before publication presents “ a risk to public confidence in the independence of the statistical system” and government should “bring forward legislation at the earliest opportunity” to put tighter controls on pre-release access, according to a select committee report published today.

By Suzannah.Brecknell

25 Feb 2013

The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) has called on government to accept the advice of the UK Statistics Authority  that statistics should “a matter of policy” be shown to the minimum number of people, and only a few hours before they are released. It also said that government should legislate to “transfer responsibility for determining policy on pre-release access to the Statistics Authority.” Currently pre-release is controlled by government and in each case approved “as a matter of course” by Parliament, said the report.

In a report considering the effects of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, the committee found that the act has “helped to improve the operation of the statistical system”. However, it noted that there were a number of areas for improvement and called on the UK Statistics Authority – created by the 2007 Act – to provide “stronger leadership, management and governance over the statistical system [across government]” and consider how “where appropriate, resources can be pooled and the UK’s statistical needs met as efficiently as possible”.

It also noted that two roles of the UK Statistics Authority – to regulate and produce statistics – “may at times be in conflict,” and “do not appear to enjoy sufficient separation”. It set out a number of ways in which the Authority could create – and be seen to create – greater independence between its two roles, including changes to its board committees, different notepaper and separate secretariats for the differing functions.

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