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The Office for National Statistics (ONS; cy, Swyddfa Ystadegau Gwladol) is the executive office of the
UK Statistics Authority cy, Y Bwrdd Ystadegau , seal = , logo = UK Statistics Authority logo.svg , formed = , jurisdiction = United Kingdom , headquarters = 1 Drummond Gate London London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingd ...
, a
non-ministerial department Non-ministerial government departments (NMGDs) are a type of department of the Government of the United Kingdom that deal with matters for which direct political oversight has been judged unnecessary or inappropriate. They are headed by senior ci ...
which reports directly to the
UK Parliament The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown dependencies and the British overseas territories. It alone possesses Parliamen ...
.


Overview

The ONS is responsible for 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 StatisticianThe National Statistician is the Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority, and the Head of the UK Government Statistical Service. The office was created by the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. The UK Statistics Authority announc ...
, 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 The Government Statistical Service (GSS) is the community of all civil servants in the United Kingdom who work in the collection, production and communication of official statistics. It includes not only statisticians, but also economists, social ...
(GSS). Its main office is in Newport near the
United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office The Intellectual Property Office of the United Kingdom (often referred to as the UK IPO) is, since 2 April 2007, the operating name of The Patent Office. It is the official government body responsible for intellectual property Intellectual p ...
and
Tredegar House Tredegar House ( Welsh: ''Tŷ Tredegar'') is a 17th-century Charles II-era mansion A mansion is a large dwelling house. The word itself derives through Old French Old French (, , ; French language, Modern French: ) was the language spoken i ...

Tredegar House
, but another significant office is in
Titchfield Titchfield is a village in southern Hampshire, by the River Meon. The village has a history stretching back to the 6th century. During the medieval period, the village operated a small port and market. Near to the village are the ruins of Titch ...
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 The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA, ga, Gníomhaireacht Thuaisceart Éireann um Staitisticí agus Taighde, links=no) is an executive agency An executive agency is a part of a government department that is treated as man ...
and NRS.


History

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 The Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS), was created in May 1970 through the merger of the General Register Office and the Government Social Survey Department. It was a forerunner and constituent, with the UK Central Statistical Offi ...
(OPCS). Following the
Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 The Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 (c 18) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of t ...
, the United Kingdom Statistics Authority became a
non-ministerial department Non-ministerial government departments (NMGDs) are a type of department of the Government of the United Kingdom that deal with matters for which direct political oversight has been judged unnecessary or inappropriate. They are headed by senior ci ...
on 1 April 2008.


Purpose and scope

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.


Applications of data

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 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 Epidemiology is the study and analysis of the distribution (who, when, and where), patterns and risk factor, determinants of health and disease conditions in defined populations. It is a cornerstone of public health, and shapes policy decisions ...
studies such as
survival analysis Survival analysis is a branch of statistics for analyzing the expected duration of time until one or more events happen, such as death in biological organisms and failure in mechanical systems. This topic is called reliability theory or reliability ...
.


Independence

Gordon Brown James Gordon Brown (born 20 February 1951) is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party from 2007 Labour Party leadership election (UK), 2007 to ...

Gordon Brown
, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced on 28 November 2005, that the government intended to publish plans in early 2006 to legislate that the ONS and the statistics it generates are 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 The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) is an established statistical society. It has three main roles: a British learned society A learned society (; also known as a learned academy, scholarly society, or academic association) is an organizat ...
and the
Statistics Commission The Statistics Commission was a non-departmental public bodyIn the United Kingdom, non-departmental public body (NDPB) is a classification applied by the Cabinet Office, HM Treasury, Treasury, the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Execu ...
. The
National StatisticianThe National Statistician is the Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority, and the Head of the UK Government Statistical Service. The office was created by the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. The UK Statistics Authority announc ...
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 acted independently, as per its own published guidelines, the National Statistics Code of Practice, which set out the key principles and standards that official statisticians, including those in other parts of the government statistical service, were 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 The Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 (c 18) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of t ...
. 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 cy, Y Bwrdd Ystadegau , seal = , logo = UK Statistics Authority logo.svg , formed = , jurisdiction = United Kingdom , headquarters = 1 Drummond Gate London London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingd ...
(UKSA). In 2012,
Andrew Dilnot Sir Andrew William Dilnot, (born 19 June 1960) is a Welsh economist and broadcaster. He was formerly the Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies from 1991 to 2002, and was Principal of St Hugh's College, Oxford between 2002 and 2012. As of ...
replaced
Michael Scholar Sir Michael Charles Scholar, KCB (born 3 January 1942) is a British civil servant and former President of St John's College, Oxford St John's College is a Colleges of the University of Oxford, constituent college of the University of Oxford. Found ...
as chairman of the Authority.


Heads of the Office and the National Statistician

Since its establishment, ONS has had five Directors: Professor
Tim Holt Charles John "Tim" Holt III (February 5, 1919 – February 15, 1973) was an American actor. He was a popular Western star during the 1940s and early 1950s, appearing in forty-six B westerns released by RKO Pictures RKO Pictures was an Americ ...
;
Len Cook Leonard Warren Cook Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, CBE (born 13 April 1949) is a professional statistician who was Government Statistician of New Zealand from 1992 to 2000, and National Statistician and Director of the ...
;
Karen Dunnell Dame Karen Hope Dunnell, Order of the Bath, DCB, FAcSS (''née'' Williamson; born 16 June 1946) is a British medical sociology, medical sociologist and civil servant. She was National Statistician and Chief Executive of the Office for National S ...
;
Jil Matheson Dame Jilian Norma Matheson is the former National Statistician of the United Kingdom. Career Matheson joined the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys in 1975. She worked on the Expenditure and Food Survey and the General Household Survey. Aft ...
; and, from October 2012,
Glen Watson A glen is a valley A valley is an elongated low area often running between hills or mountains, which will typically contain a river or stream running from one end to the other. Most valleys are formed by erosion of the land surface by r ...
. 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 John James Pullinger (born 1 June 1959) was the National StatisticianThe National Statistician is the Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority, and the Head of the UK Government Statistical Service. The office was created by the Statist ...
replaced Jil Matheson as National Statistician (and Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority) in July 2014. Pullinger retired in June 2019 and in October 2019 Professor Sir Ian Diamond assumed the role of National Statistician.


Work

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.


Data collection

The principal areas of data collection include: * Agriculture and Environment * Business and Energy * Children, Education and Skills * Crime and Justice * Economy ( ESCoE) * 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 The Government Statistical Service (GSS) is the community of all civil servants in the United Kingdom who work in the collection, production and communication of official statistics. It includes not only statisticians, but also economists, social ...
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 The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is the government department Ministry or department, also less commonly used secretariat, office, or directorate are designations used by a first-level executive Executive may refe ...
. 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 A health department or health ministry is a part of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad associative definition, gover ...
, 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''.


Former departments

Before the establishment of the
UK Statistics Authority cy, Y Bwrdd Ystadegau , seal = , logo = UK Statistics Authority logo.svg , formed = , jurisdiction = United Kingdom , headquarters = 1 Drummond Gate London London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingd ...
, the statistical work of ONS, since June 2000, was scrutinised by the
Statistics Commission The Statistics Commission was a non-departmental public bodyIn the United Kingdom, non-departmental public body (NDPB) is a classification applied by the Cabinet Office, HM Treasury, Treasury, the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Execu ...
, an independent body with its own chairman and small staff. This ceased to operate from 1 April 2008. The
General Register Office General Register Office or General Registry Office (GRO) is the name given to the civil registry Civil registration is the system by which a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, ge ...
and the post of
Registrar-General General Register Office or General Registry Office (GRO) is the name given to the civil registry Civil registration is the system by which a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, ge ...
for England & Wales ceased to be part of ONS from that date but remains subject to ministerial accountability within the
Home Office The Home Office (HO), also known (especially in official papers and when referred to in Parliament) as the Home Department, is a ministerial department of the , responsible for , , and . As such, it is responsible for in England and Wales, i ...

Home Office
.


The Blue Book

The annual United Kingdom National Accounts are published in an online publication (The Blue Book) by the Office for National Statistics. It records and describes economic activity in the United Kingdom and as such is used by government, banks, academics and industries to formulate the economic and social policies and monitor the economic progress of the United Kingdom. It also allows international comparisons to be made. The Blue Book is published alongside the United Kingdom Balance of Payments – The Pink Book.


Education of statisticians

The Office for National Statistics collaborates with the
University of Southampton , mottoeng = The Heights Yield to Endeavour , type = Research university , established = 1862 – Hartley Institution1902 – Hartley University College1952 – gained university status by royal charter , chancellor ...
in the teaching of an MSc in Official Statistics; the programme has been running since 2003.


Virtual Microdata Laboratory

The Virtual Microdata Laboratory (VML) was established in 2004 to allow researchers access to business data. It is a secure facility within the Office for National Statistics where both government officials and academic researchers can analyse sensitive, detailed data for statistical purposes. The researchers cannot download the data or take any copies out of the laboratory and the results of the analysis is checked for statistical disclosure.


Office locations

The ONS has a head office in the city of
Newport Newport most commonly refers to: *Newport, Wales, UK *Newport, Rhode Island, US Newport or New Port may also refer to: Places Asia *Newport City, Metro Manila, a Philippine district in Pasay Europe Ireland *Newport, County Mayo, a town on ...
, Wales, and other offices in
Pimlico Pimlico () is an area of Central London Central London is the innermost part of London London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom. The city stands on ...
in London and
Titchfield Titchfield is a village in southern Hampshire, by the River Meon. The village has a history stretching back to the 6th century. During the medieval period, the village operated a small port and market. Near to the village are the ruins of Titch ...
in Hampshire.Office for National Statistics: location maps
www.ons.gov.uk. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
The
Family Records Centre The Family Records Centre (FRC) provided access to family history Genealogy (from el, γενεαλογία ' "the making of a pedigree") is the study of families, family history, and the tracing of their lineages. Genealogists use oral interv ...
in Myddelton Street in
Islington Islington () is a district in Greater London, England, and part of the London Borough of Islington. It is a mainly residential district of Inner London, extending from Islington's Islington#Islington High Street, High Street to Highbury Fields, ...
, London, moved to the National Archives in Kew in 2008. They also have an Archive Storage site located in
Christchurch Christchurch ( ; mi, Ōtautahi) is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the seat of the Canterbury, New Zealand, Canterbury Region. Christchurch lies on the South Island's east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula on Pegas ...
, Dorset.


Former headquarters

The London (Pimlico) office was the head office until April 2006 when the corporate headquarters was moved to Newport following the Lyons Review on public sector relocation. Since May 2011 the London office has been located on the 2nd floor of the former Drummond Gate headquarters and houses the methodology consultancy service, the virtual microdata laboratory and media briefings.


Gradual move of functions to South Wales

The ONS asserted that recruitment and training of quality staff in South Wales, where data collection and analysis already took place, would ensure that there was no risk to the quality of its services and that it managed the risks associated with the changes. However the plan to discontinue statistical activity in London proved controversial amid claims that the shift of functions from London and the closure of the London office would have serious implications for the future of certain sets of statistics. These include health statistics, National Accounts, Retail and Consumer Prices and Labour Market Statistics. These risks were stated to derive from the fact that few of the experienced staff working in these highly technical areas were expected to relocate to Newport, resulting in a substantial loss of expertise and a consequent threat to the continued quality of the statistics. In a submission to the Parliamentary Treasury Sub Committee, the Bank of England expressed concern over the relocation of the ONS to
Newport Newport most commonly refers to: *Newport, Wales, UK *Newport, Rhode Island, US Newport or New Port may also refer to: Places Asia *Newport City, Metro Manila, a Philippine district in Pasay Europe Ireland *Newport, County Mayo, a town on ...
, saying, that ''"the relocation programme poses serious risks to the maintenance of the quality of macroeconomic data. If substantial numbers of ONS staff are unwilling to relocate, the loss of skilled individuals could have a severe impact on a range of statistics."'' The director of ONS at the time vigorously defended the implementation of government policy on civil service relocation and the decision to concentrate staff in the three locations outside London.


Criticism of the ONS

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 (PI) is a UK-based registered charity A charitable organization or charity is an organization whose primary objectives are philanthropy and social well-being (e.g. educational, Religion, religious or other activities serv ...
for its
Citizen Information ProjectIn the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to u ...
. The project is one of several that lead the
Information CommissionerThe role of information commissioner differs from nation to nation. Most commonly it is a title given to a government regulator in the fields of freedom of information and the protection of personal data in the widest sense. The office often funct ...
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". In 2016, Professor Sir
Charles Bean Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean (18 November 1879 – 30 August 1968), usually identified as C. E. W. Bean was an Australian historian. He is considered one of Australia's most distinguished men of letters and one of Australia's most distinguished a ...
conducted an independent review of UK Economic Statistics. He notes that although there is much criticism of the ONS's performance, particularly of the size and frequency of revisions, that this criticism is “not entirely justified”. Following the review, the then-Chair of the
Treasury Select Committee The House of Commons Treasury Committee (often referred to as the Treasury Select Committee) is a select committee of the House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house of the bicameral parliaments of the United Ki ...
,
Andrew Tyrie Andrew Guy Tyrie, Baron Tyrie, PC (born 15 January 1957) is a British Conservative Party politician A politician is a person active in party politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisio ...
, criticised the ONS for being “out of touch”. In 2019, the ONS admitted that EU migration to the UK may have been underestimated due to methodology of the International Passenger Survey.


See also

*
Departments of the United Kingdom Government The Government of the United Kingdom is divided up into departments. These, according to the government, are responsible for putting government policy into practice. There are currently 23 ministerial departments, 20 non-ministerial departments ...
*
List of national and international statistical services The following is a list of national and international statistical services. Central national statistical services Nearly every country in the world has set a central public sector unit entirely devoted to the production, harmonisation and dissemina ...
*
Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA, ga, Gníomhaireacht Thuaisceart Éireann um Staitisticí agus Taighde, links=no) is an executive agency within the Department of Finance in Northern Ireland. The organisation is respon ...
* United Kingdom Censuses


Notes


References


External links

* – official site
UK Statistics AuthorityStatistics and Registration Service Bill
Treasury website.

Parliament website.
Palgrave Macmillan, official publisher for the Office for National Statistics
{{DEFAULTSORT:Office For National Statistics Demographics of England Demographics of Wales
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...
Organisations based in Newport, Wales Government databases in the United Kingdom Organizations established in 1996 1996 establishments in the United Kingdom Statistical organisations in the United Kingdom