Announcement of an interim National Statistician

The current National Statistician John Pullinger is due to leave his post on 30 June.

The UK Statistics Authority Board has asked the Deputy National Statistician for Economic Statistics, Jonathan Athow, to cover the role in the interim.

The announcement of a new National Statistician will be made later in the summer.

Deputy National Statistician Heather Savory leaving the Office for National Statistics to lead the development of the UN Global Platform on Big Data

Beginning next month, Heather will focus her attention on her work with the United Nations Global Working Group on Big Data for Official Statistics (GWG), with the continued support of the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Heather has been involved in this work since 2016 when she was invited to lead a Task Team considering emerging technologies for the use of Big Data, with a focus on enabling the delivery of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since becoming Co-Chair of the GWG in 2016, alongside her role as Director General for Data Capability at ONS, Heather has represented the ONS at an international level as it seeks to collaborate and partner across the statistical community to develop effective solutions to the challenges facing the world today.

To help achieve its mission of harnessing the power of data for better lives, the GWG is developing the UN Global Platform as a collaborative environment for the global statistical community to work together actively sharing knowledge, data and methods. Heather is particularly passionate about this important work and is looking forward to focusing her time, attention and efforts on supporting the United Nations in the development of this Global Platform to deliver tangible and visible public good. The Platform builds on best practices of public and private Big Data initiatives and will aim to provide a global hub for official statisticians, data scientists and domain experts across all sectors to work collaboratively.

National Statistician John Pullinger said:

“Heather has brought great energy and determination to her role as Deputy National Statistician and Director General for Data Capability and I know she will continue to bring that commitment to the UN Global Platform. This project is at the heart of the global ambition to mobilise the power of data.

“Heather leaves ONS digital and data capability in a radically better place than it was four years ago, including through the Data Science Campus, Data Access Platform, Security Strategy, Secure Research Service and other associated infrastructures, policies and services.

“The organisation is now well placed to reap the rewards in the years ahead. Heather will be missed by many colleagues across the Office and I am sure they will join me in wishing her well for the future.”

Heather Savory said:

“Our partnership with the UN on the Global Platform has enabled us to trial some of the innovative technologies we have built into our own, new, ONS systems. I want to help build on what has been achieved to-date here, to achieve ‘critical mass’ and give the Global Platform a life of its own for the future. Through this work we will support decision makers across the world with good data to help inform their solutions to the challenges of our world today.

“Over the past four years here at ONS, I have worked with an incredible team to bring about digital and data transformation. I’m enormously proud of what we have achieved during this time. We’ve taken the ONS forward to a place where we are now widely recognised as being at the forefront of digital and data transformation, and statistical modernisation.”

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude and thanks to everyone who has contributed to this transformation. I have been incredibly privileged to lead a superb team and work with fantastic colleagues at the ONS, across government and experts in other sectors.”


Introduction of the Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Bill

On 1 May 2019, the Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords.

The Bill will amend the Census Act 1920 to remove the penalty for not responding to new census questions on sexual orientation and gender identity, and add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Schedule of that Act.

This means the 2021 Census in England and Wales, as set out in the proposals in December 2018 by the White Paper “Help Shape our Future: The 2021 Census of Population and Housing in England and Wales”, can include questions on sexual orientation and gender identity that can be answered on a voluntary basis.


See also:

Celebrating one year since the refresh of the Code of Practice for Statistics

This time last year, the UK Statistics Authority launched the refreshed Code of Practice for Statistics. 

The refreshed Code has supported and developed thinking on statistics as a public asset based on three pillars – Trustworthiness, Quality and Value.

This has enabled users and producers to have a set of principles that underpin independent statistics production and presentation, ensuring confidence in this essential public asset. This is important because statistics frame public debate. They inform public understanding of what’s going on in the world. They help provide a basis for people to make decisions – whether as policy makers, citizens, professionals or businesses. And they create a common ground for debate – about what’s working, what isn’t working and what needs to change.


Speaking on the first anniversary:

Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority said: “It’s essential that people can have confidence in the statistics produced by Government. The Code of Practice for Statistics aims to provide the framework to ensure that statistics are trustworthy, good quality, and valuable. Statistics will serve the public good if producers follow the principles and practices set out in the Code.”

Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation said: “In a world of abundant data people want to sift the useful information from the unreliable. The principles of trustworthiness, quality and value really support this aim – and this is why the Code has been endorsed widely inside and outside Government.”


Guest blogging on the first anniversary:

Sir David Spiegelhalter, Former RSS President said: “A personal highlight of my last year as RSS President was the new Code of Practice for Statistics … Its emphasis on the trustworthiness of statistics gets to the core of what we are about as a community.” You can read Sir David’s blog here.

John Pullinger, National Statistician said: “The real power of the code is as an antidote to the narratives about loss of trust in institutions in general and in the use of data in particular.” Read John’s blog here.

Steve Ellerd-Elliott, Head of Profession at the Department for Work and Pensions said: “A new aspect of the Code that we have embraced is voluntary application to extend trustworthiness, quality and value to statistics that we routinely publish statistics on benefits, employment programmes and other important subjects that aren’t Official or National statistics.” You can read Steve’s blog here.


Note for Editors

The refreshed Code is available in three formats: as a booklet, an online PDF and a newly developed interactive code with case study examples – please visit here.

The Code of Practice for Statistics is an important tool in protecting official statistics by setting the standards which must be met to ensure the public can have confidence in them.

The Code standards are used:

  • by statisticians, and other analysts when producing and publishing official statistics;
  • by the Office for Statistics Regulation when determining whether official statistics can be called National Statistics;
  • by the Authority when publicly challenging the misuse of statistics;
  • to support judgements about the publication of wider numerical information; and
  • to enable statistics that are not currently National or Official statistics to voluntarily apply the principles and support users.

If you have an enquiry or require further information about the refreshed Code of Practice please email the regulation team.

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The Social Metrics Commission Voluntarily Adopts the Code of Practice for Statistics

The Office for Statistics Regulation is pleased to announce that the Social Metrics Commission has become one of the latest organisations to publish a statement of voluntary compliance with the UK Statistics Authority’s Code of Practice for Statistics.

This demonstrates the Commission’s full commitment to applying the pillars of Trustworthiness, Quality and Value which underpin the Code. The Commission is one of the first non-Government bodies to voluntarily comply with the pillars of Authority’s Code of Practice.

Ed Humpherson, the Director General for Regulation at the Office for Statistics Regulation said: “I am delighted that the Social Metrics Commission has chosen to apply the pillars of the Code of Practice for Statistics to prepare their new poverty measure. They set a strong example of how to be transparent, reassure users and ensure high standards.”

Philippa Stroud, Chair of the Social Metrics Commission said: “Our approach to measuring poverty is underpinned by the need to build consensus and trust in their work and the analysis they produce. The Commission hopes to play a central role in improving the measurement of poverty in the UK, and consequently, drive better outcomes for people and families who are struggling to make ends meet.”

To see the latest list of organisations to voluntarily adopt the Code or find out more voluntary application please visit the online Code or contact

Appointment of Sian Jones as Deputy Chair of the Authority

The UK Statistics Authority is pleased to announce the appointment of Sian Jones as the new Deputy Chair of the UK Statistics Authority. She replaces Professor Sir Adrian Smith, who stepped down from the role in December 2018, and who continues to serve as a member of the Authority Board.

Sian Jones joined the Authority as a non-executive member of the UK Statistics Authority Board, starting post on 1 July 2016 for a period of three years. Sian has been re-appointed for a further five years, ending on 1 July 2024.

John Pullinger plans to retire as National Statistician in June

John Pullinger plans to retire as the UK’s National Statistician and Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority in June 2019, after 5 years as Permanent Secretary.


Mr Pullinger took up post as the UK’s National Statistician on 1 July 2014, having previously served as House of Commons Librarian and President of the Royal Statistical Society.

In the period since Mr Pullinger has helped to mobilise the power of data in the UK, overseeing:

  • the introduction of the Digital Economy Act 2017, to enable better use of data and clearer assurance for the public on how data are being used;
  • the establishment of the Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence, and improvements to statistics on productivity, prices and trade;
  • the launch of the Data Science Campus in Newport, to explore new data sources and techniques; and
  • preparations for the UK’s first predominantly online Census, with the most ambitious target in the world for online data-collection.


Reflecting on his five years in post, Mr Pullinger said:

“It has been a joy to work with such a brilliant group of people over the last few years and to think about leaving gives cause for reflection.

“As a team we have renewed our economic statistics so that they can keep pace with the evolving modern economy. We have rethought data collection and the census so that we can deliver much more helpful insights to guide public policy. And we have built our data capability through development of people, infrastructure and systems.”


Speaking today, Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, paid tribute to the work of Mr Pullinger:

“While John won’t be retiring until June, on behalf of the Board and staff of the UK Statistics Authority I would like to give huge thanks to John for all that he has achieved.

“John has been an inspiring leader to analysts not just in ONS but right across government, transforming the evidence available to decision-makers across the UK.

“His reforms will stand us all in good stead for years to come.”


An open competition to appoint Mr Pullinger’s successor will be launched shortly.

Re-appointment of Professor Sir Adrian Smith FRS

The UK Statistics Authority is pleased to announce the re-appointment of Professor Sir Adrian Smith as a non-executive member of the UK Statistics Authority Board, and Deputy Chair of the UK Statistics Authority.

Sir Adrian’s re-appointment was approved under the provisions of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. He has been re-appointed for a period of two years, ending on 31 August 2020.

Appointments to the Board of the UK Statistics Authority

The UK Statistics Authority warmly welcomes the appointment of Professor Sir Ian Diamond and Professor Anne Trefethen as non-executive members of the UK Statistics Authority Board.  Both have been appointed for four-year terms, commencing today.

Speaking today, Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, said:

“I am delighted to welcome Ian and Anne as non-executive members of the UK Statistics Authority. Ian’s experience working within the research community and Anne’s experience on numerical algorithms will be of enormous benefit to the UK Statistics Authority Board, as we work to mobilise the power of data.”

For more information please contact: +44 (0)7818 011 583.

Notes for editors:

The UK Statistics Authority is an independent body operating at arm’s length from government as a non-ministerial department, directly accountable to Parliament. It was established on 1 April 2008 by the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.

The Authority’s statutory objective is to promote and safeguard the production and publication of official statistics that serve the public good. It is also required to promote and safeguard the quality and comprehensiveness of official statistics, and ensure good practice in relation to official statistics.

Professor Sir Ian Diamond FBA FRSE FAcSS
Professor Sir Ian Diamond was Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen from 2010 to 2018.  He was previously Chief Executive of the Economic and Social Research (ESRC) Council and, from 2004 to 2009, Chair of the Research Councils UK Executive Group (2004-2009).   Before joining the ESRC, Sir Ian was Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Southampton, where he had been for most of his career.

Sir Ian is Chair of British Universities and Colleges Sport, Chair of Edinburgh College of Further Education, Chair of Plan International UK and a Board member of UK Research and Innovation. He chaired the Welsh Assembly Government of the Higher Education Review for Wales reporting in 2016.  Sir Ian was elected to the UK Academy of Social Sciences in 1999, is a Fellow of the British Academy (2005), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2009) and holds honorary degrees from the universities of Cardiff, Glasgow and Curtin. 

Ian was appointed to the UK Statistics Authority Board on 7 June 2018, for a four-year term.

Professor Anne Trefethen FBCS FREng

Anne Trefethen is a Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor of Scientific Computing and Fellow of St Cross College at the University of Oxford.   Prior to being appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Gardens, Libraries and Museums) in January 2015, she was appointed as the University’s first Chief Information Officer in March 2012.

Anne joined the University to lead the creation of the Oxford e-Research Centre where she served as the Director for over 6 years.  Her research has been focused on high-performance numerical algorithms and large-scale scientific applications.  She has contributed to the fields of parallel numerical algorithms, software design and engineering and most recently to energy-aware algorithms. Before coming to Oxford in 2005, she was a Director of the UK e-Science Core Programme working with the Research Councils and DTI (now Innovate UK). She has spent ten years in the US at Thinking Machines Inc. and as Associate Director at the Theory Centre, Cornell University.

Anne was appointed to the UK Statistics Authority Board on 7 June 2018, for a four-year term.

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