Chair of UK Statistics Authority expresses concern about “widespread use” of Retail Prices Index (RPI)

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

“The RPI is a poor measure of inflation, and today’s publication by the ONS highlights its many problems.

“With this strong evidence for the deficiencies of the RPI, I remain concerned by its widespread use. If people want to measure changing prices they should use other indices such as the CPI or CPIH, which do not suffer the technical weaknesses of the RPI.” 

Notes for editors:

  1. Sir David is the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, a non-Ministerial Department responsible for “promoting and safeguarding the production and publication of official statistics.”
  2. Sir David’s comments follow the publication of a new report, by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on the shortcomings of the RPI.
  3. For questions about Sir David’s statement, please contact the UK Statistics Authority press office, on 07818 011 583.
  4. For questions about ONS’s report, please contact ONS on 01633 456 589.

Sir David Norgrove takes up office as Chair of the UK Statistics Authority

Sir David Norgrove today takes up office as Chair of the UK Statistics Authority in succession to Sir Andrew Dilnot CBE whose term of office came to a conclusion on 31 March. Sir David has been appointed for a five-year term.

Speaking today, Sir David said:

I am delighted to take on the role as Chair of the UK Statistics Authority and look forward to building on Sir Andrew Dilnot’s outstanding work. 

Well founded data and analysis are more important than ever.  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.

I would like warmly to thank Andrew for all he has done to promote the use of evidence and statistics to give new insights about our country and for the way he has spoken out against their misuse. 

For more information please contact +44 (0)7780 222 569 or +44 (0)7795 841 283.


Notes for Editors:

  1. The post of Chair of the UK Statistics Authority is a Crown appointment, made with the approval of Parliament following a pre-appointment hearing before the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee in January 2017 and a formal motion debated on the floor of the House of Commons in March 2017.
  2. Sir David Norgrove is appointed to succeed Sir Andrew Dilnot CBE whose term of office ended on 31 March 2017.
  3. Sir David Norgrove took up post on 1 April 2017 for a five-year term.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Further information about the UK Statistics Authority is available on the Authority’s website www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk

About Sir David Norgrove

  1. Sir David Norgrove was Deputy Chair of the Family Justice Board from 2012 until 2016 having chaired it from its inception in 2012.
  2. Sir David is an external member and Deputy Chair of Oxford University Council. Sir David has been a trustee and Deputy Chair of the British Museum, and chaired the Low Pay Commission from 2009 to 2016, the Pensions Regulator from its inception in 2005 until 2010, Risk First from 2012 to 2015 and Amnesty International Charitable Trust from 2008 to 2014.  He chaired a Government review of the family justice system in 2010 – 11.
  3. David began his career as an economist at the Treasury and worked in a Chicago bank before becoming Private Secretary to the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.  He spent 16 years with Marks & Spencer between 1988 and 2004 and became a member of the Board there.
  4. David was knighted in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to the low paid and to family justice.

UK Statistics Authority statement on the use of official statistics on contributions to the European Union

Sir Andrew Dilnot, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority has said today:

  • Given the high level of public interest in the European Union referendum debate, it is vital that official statistics are used accurately, with important caveats and limitations explained.
  • The UK Statistics Authority is disappointed to note that there continue to be suggestions that the UK contributes £350 million to the EU each week, and that this full amount could be spent elsewhere (see Annex A).
  • As we have made clear, the UK’s contribution to the EU is paid after the application of the rebate. We have also pointed out that there are payments received by the UK public and private sectors that are relevant here. The continued use of a gross figure in contexts that imply it is a net figure is misleading and undermines trust in official statistics.

For media enquiries about this statement please contact +44 (0)7818 011 583 or +44 (0)7795 841 283.

 

Annex A

https://twitter.com/vote_leave/status/730415023571542017 as at 11 May 2016

https://twitter.com/vote_leave/status/733199539901988864?lang=en-gb as at 19 May 2016

http://www.voteleavetakecontrol.org/campaign_resources.html as at 25 May 2016

https://twitter.com/vote_leave/status/735380643195064320  as at 25 May 2016

 

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.

The Authority’s functions relate to its statutory areas of responsibility:

  • oversight of the UK official statistics system, which includes around 30 central government departments and the devolved administrations, and the promotion, safeguarding and monitoring of quality, comprehensiveness and good practice in relation to all official statistics, wherever produced;
  • production of a Code of Practice for Statistics and assessment of official statistics against the Code; and,
  • governance of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the UK’s National Statistical Institute and the largest producer of official statistics.

Further information about the UK Statistics Authority is available on the Authority’s website: www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk

 

Concerns have been raised with the UK Statistics Authority about continued suggestions that the UK contributes £350 million to the EU each week, and that this full amount could be spent elsewhere. The Authority has set out in recent correspondence listed below the figures which describe different sources of UK contributions to the EU, in particular, Table 9.9 of the Pink Book, which gives the ONS’s best view of the UK’s official payments to and receipts from the EU.

The UK Statistics Authority concluded on 21 April 2016 that the use of the £350 million figure, which is a gross figure which does not take into account the rebate or other flows from the EU to the UK public sector (or flows to non-public sector bodies), alongside the suggestion that this could be spent elsewhere, without further explanation, was potentially misleading.

Recent correspondence with the UK Statistics Authority regarding United Kingdom contributions to the European Union includes:

  • On 24 March 2016 the chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee, Mr Bernard Jenkin MP wrote to the Chair of the Authority regarding the United Kingdom’s contributions to the European Union.

Mr Jenkin MP to the Chair of the Authority

Chair of the Authority to Mr Jenkin MP

 

  • On 15 April 2016 the Rt. Hon Norman Lamb MP wrote to the Chair of the Authority regarding the Vote Leave campaign’s use of statistics in campaign literature.

Rt. Hon Norman Lamb MP to the Chair of the Authority

Chair of the Authority to the Rt. Hon Norman Lamb MP

 

  • On 21 April 2016 Dominic Cummings, Vote Leave, wrote to the Chair of the Authority following the Chair’s correspondence with the Rt. Hon Norman Lamb MP.

Dominic Cummings to the Chair of the Authority

Chair of the Authority to Dominic Cummings

 

  • On 17 May 2016 Dominic Cummings, Vote Leave, wrote to the Chair of the Authority following his reply of 10 May. Today the Authority has published the Chair of the Authority’s response and published a statement setting out the Authority’s position.

Dominic Cummings to the Chair of the Authority

Chair of the Authority to Dominic Cummings

        

   

Correspondence with the UK Statistics Authority can be found at https://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/correspondence-list/

 

The Office for National Statistics published the ‘UK Perspectives 2016: The UK contribution to the EU budget’ release on 25 May 2016. This is available at http://visual.ons.gov.uk/uk-perspectives-2016-the-uk-contribution-to-the-eu-budget/ and sets out UK contributions to the EU budget.

Statement from National Statistician on the death of Lord Moser

The Statistics Authority is saddened by the news that Lord Moser, previously the Director of the Central Statistical Office and Head of the Government Statistical Service from 1967 to 1978, died on 4 September 2015.

Speaking today, the National Statistician, John Pullinger, said:

“Claus Moser stands as an inspiration to our profession, both inside and outside government.

“He was a towering figure and pioneer. In establishing the Government Statistical Service, he brought our skills to the heart of government decision making. In creating the ground breaking Social Trends publication, he enabled a much wider public to understand and appreciate the insights statistics can bring.

“To me he was a special mentor, always there to provide encouragement and guidance. Along with many others, I will miss him greatly.”

Statement of Strategy 2015-2020

Better Statistics, Better Decisions

The Statement of Strategy 2015-2020 was published today.

Sir Andrew Dilnot, Chair said,

“I am pleased to introduce the UK Statistics Authority’s strategy for official statistics. The Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007  established the Statistics Authority as an independent body which reports directly to the UK Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Authority has the statutory objective of promoting and safeguarding the production and publication of official statistics that ‘serve the public good”.

Better Statistics, Better Decisions

Short-Term Economic Output Indicators Re-assessments

The short-term economic output indicators are among the most important, high profile statistics produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), providing some of the earliest signals about the health and momentum of the UK economy, including consumer and business confidence. They inform decisions that affect the daily lives of everyone in the UK, such as interest rates. They are used by a wide range of organisations and people for making and monitoring economic policy, and for informing day-to-day and strategic decisions.

The UK Statistics Authority has today published three related Assessment Reports on Short-term Economic Output Indicators, produced by ONS. The first report covers the preliminary estimate of Gross Domestic Product, Index of Production, and Index of Services statistics ; the second report covers statistics on Retail Sales ; and the third report covers statistics on construction output and new orders.

Overall, these reports find that ONS complies with much of the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. Users who engaged with the Assessment team as part of this assessment reported that the statistics largely meet their needs. ONS produces and publishes the statistics in a timely way, to a pre-announced timetable, and engages effectively with the key institutional users of the statistics. But it is wrong to focus just on these well-known institutions, like the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility. More than most sets of statistics, this package of outputs speaks to a very wide range of audiences for a wide range of uses, from guiding business decisions to acting as a general barometer of the economy.

In light of this enormous public significance, the range of Requirements included within these reports reflect the fact that ONS is not doing all that it can to extract maximum value from the statistics. Many of the requirements relate to ONS communicating more effectively about some aspects of the statistics, or the processes involved in producing them. ONS does not consistently produce an adequate narrative to explain what the statistics mean, and could enhance their utility by giving more prominent reference to the material in the separate analytical documents that it produces, which draw together overall messages from a range of economic statistics (including those on the labour market). And while ONS has undertaken work to understand and measure the quality of the statistics, we agree with users that ONS needs to present information about uncertainty more clearly and more prominently.

Overall, these issues might reflect a situation within this pressurised area of ONS where the scope for highly skilled professional analysts to be able to stand back from the detail of the production process could be improved. Being able to step back would allow those experts to be able to undertake more activities that have potential to add significant public value to these statistics.

Ed Humpherson, Head of Assessment, UK Statistics Authority

Review of the governance of prices statistics

The Board of the UK Statistics Authority has welcomed a report on the Review of the Governance of Prices Statistics, and has asked the Authority Chief Executive to implement the report’s recommendations.

The Authority launched its review of the governance of prices statistics on 16 May 2013 alongside a separate but complementary review of the range of prices statistics, which will report later this year.

The review of the governance of prices statistics was led by Professor Sir Adrian Smith, the Authority’s Deputy Chair with responsibility for the Office for National Statistics. As set out in the terms of reference, the review considered matters relating to the governance arrangements and structures supporting the production of consumer prices, to ensure that these statistics best meet the needs of users in future.

The review report recommends the creation of two advisory panels on consumer prices; a stakeholder panel to advise the National Statistician on the uses and application of price indices, and a technical panel to provide advice on the technical aspects of the statistics.

Speaking today Sir Andrew Dilnot, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, welcomed the report:

“As this report recognises, the governance arrangements and structures underpinning the production of consumer price indices are key to the quality, integrity and independence of these statistics. The creation of discrete stakeholder and technical advisory panels on consumer price statistics will ensure that matters are directed to the experts and users best placed to deal with them.

“I and the Board of the UK Statistics Authority look forward to receiving reports from these two important new advisory panels, once they are established.”

For media enquiries about this Statement please contact +44 (0) 7818 011 583.

Retirement of Jil Matheson as National Statistician in Summer 2014

The National Statistician, Jil Matheson, will retire in Summer 2014 after almost five years in post.

Speaking today, Sir Andrew Dilnot, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, paid tribute to Jil Matheson:

“Jil’s professional leadership of the UK statistical system over the last five years as National Statistician has been exemplary and with her retirement we will lose a highly influential, engaging and trusted ambassador who has unfailingly articulated the importance of high quality, trusted official statistics to countless different audiences far and wide, both at home and abroad. Over her almost 40 years in the Civil Service, Jil has brought great wisdom, judgment and wise counsel to a number of roles within the statistical service, and she has been instrumental in shaping and developing the Office for National Statistics and wider UK statistical system for continuing success in the future.

“In my time as Chair of the Statistics Authority, I have been struck by how Jil engages, encourages and empowers colleagues to deliver of their best and, despite an unenviable diary of appointments, always ensures that she makes time to talk to anyone who might pass her desk, or meet her in the corridor, or even at the bus stop, in her typically relaxed, approachable and informal way. These are among the remarkable personal qualities which we will sorely miss.

“While Jil won’t be retiring until the summer, on behalf of the Board and staff of the UK Statistics Authority I would like to pay tribute, here, to Jil for all she has achieved. Jil will be a very hard act to follow. We say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ for her dedication, commitment and service to UK official statistics, and wish Jil all the very best for the future.”

An open competition to recruit Jil’s successor will commence shortly and further details will be published on the Appointments page of the UK Statistics Authority website.

For media enquiries about this Statement please contact +44 (0)7786 892263

Statistics Authority launches reviews of price indices

Further to the Statement of 10 January 20131 , the UK Statistics Authority is today announcing the launch of two reviews relating to price indices.

Range of prices statistics
The first review will consider what changes are needed to the range of consumer price statistics produced for the UK to best meet current and future user needs. The review will be led by Paul Johnson, Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and will report to the Board of the UK Statistics Authority and deliver a final report for publication by summer 2014. The terms of reference have now been published.

Governance of prices statistics
The second review will consider matters relating to the governance arrangements and structures supporting the production of consumer price statistics by the Office for National Statistics to ensure that these statistics best meet the needs of users in future. The review will be led by Professor Sir Adrian Smith, the Authority’s Deputy Chair with responsibility for ONS. The review will report to the Board of the Authority and deliver a final report for publication by October 2013. The terms of reference have now been published. 

Speaking today Andrew Dilnot, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority said:

“I am delighted that Sir Adrian Smith and Paul Johnson have agreed to lead these two important and exciting reviews that will consider significant matters relating to price indices.

“Sir Adrian’s review will tackle the vitally important question for the governance arrangements supporting the production of price statistics to underpin the quality, integrity and independence of price statistics for the public good, as well as considering the role of the producer and the provision of the best advice to the producer, and relevant international practice and context.

“The Authority also wants to recommend a framework for consumer prices statistics that understands and best meets the needs of users, and is accountable, flexible, and transparent. Modern economics are complex and the measurement of price change is challenging. The review led by Paul Johnson is an opportunity to think carefully about these difficult but very important questions.

“I and the Authority Board are looking forward to receiving their recommendations in due course”.

For media enquiries about this Statement and the two reviews please contact +44 (0)7786 892263

Retail Prices Index

The Authority’s Statement published on 10 January 2013 set out that the Board of the Statistics Authority had asked for a statutory re-assessment of Retail Prices Index (RPI) statistics to be undertaken. This re-assessment has now concluded and an Assessment Report has today been published.

In January, the National Statistician completed a work programme and public consultation to address the differences between the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) and the RPI, and found that the formulation of the RPI fails to meet international standards.

The Authority’s statutory re-assessment of RPI statistics has confirmed this view, and the Authority has concluded that RPI statistics will no longer be designated as National Statistics. This will be explained to users in all statistical releases and relevant publications containing RPI statistics.(1)

For media enquiries about this Statement please contact +44 (0)7786 892263


  1. The RPI will continue to be compiled, maintained and published by ONS on a consistent, monthly basis.

 

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