UK statistics chief pledges to make case for evidence in policymaking

Former Treasury civil servant Sir David Norgrove wants to raise the status of statisticians and economists in government

By Richard Johnstone

03 Apr 2017

Sir David Norgrove has today been confirmed as chair of the UK Statistics Authority with a pledge to boost the use of evidence and statistics in government policymaking.

The former Treasury civil servant takes on the post today following approval by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee.

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Speaking on his first day in office, Norgrove said he would look to build on the work of his predecessor Sir Andrew Dilnot in “promoting the use of evidence and statistics to give new insights about our country” and in speaking out against statistical misuse.

“Well founded data and analysis are more important than ever,” Norgrove said. “I look forward to working with the board and colleagues at the UK Statistics Authority to take forward a challenging agenda and to continuing our independent reporting to parliament via the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee.”

In his pre-appointment hearing, Norgrove told MPs there was a “question” over the role of the Government Statistical Service, which he said appeared to have been “downgraded” over the years to occupy a “less important role” in government.

“I’d certainly want to work with the national statistician to raise the status of statisticians – and economists, for that matter – in government,” he said.

Norgrove has held a number of posts in Whitehall since joining the civil service in 1972 as an economist at the Treasury. These include serving as private secretary to Margaret Thatcher when she was prime minister.

He is also former chair of the Low Pay Commission (from 2009 to 2016) and the Pensions Regulator (from 2005 to 2010) and has worked in the private sector, including 16 years with retailer Marks & Spencer.

In his pre-appointment hearing with MPs, Norgrove also said he would work to instil greater rigor in the statistics produced by departments.

“We run a very devolved approach to statistics, which is gradually becoming more centralised as we get particular problems – for example, with crime statistics that PACAC took an interest in,” he said.

“I would welcome, over time, a greater sense of discipline around departments and the use of statistics as well as with national statistics.”

Welcoming today’s confirmation of Norgrove appointment, Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer said he would make “an exceptional chair”.

“Having chaired the Low Pay Commission and the Pensions Regulator, he has an exemplary record and one which will stand him in good stead as chair of the UK Statistics Authority,” Gummer said.

Norgrove, who will serve for an initial five-year term, does not hold any other government posts.

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