The phrase 'pre-release access' refers to the practice whereby official statistics in their final form, and any accompanying written commentary, are made available to an eligible person in advance of their publication.
The rules and principles that govern pre-release access are specified within the Pre-release Access to Official Statistics Order 2008.
Where pre-release access has been granted to ONS statistics, a list of those individuals who receive access by job title, will be listed within the ‘statistical release’ page for that particular release.
This statement is published in conformance with the Pre-Release Access to Official Statistics Order 2008, which was approved by Parliament under Section 11 of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and which came into effect on 1 December 2008.
This statement sets out the operational arrangements for giving eligible persons access to ONS official statistics in their final form prior to publication.
These arrangements are designed to ensure that such access is justified, limited, controlled, publicised and complies with statutory requirements.
Their purpose is to balance the public interest in trust in official statistics with that of enabling those with policy responsibility to answer questions and provide responses at the time statistics are published.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is an executive office within the UK Statistics Authority, a non-ministerial government department, and has no policy responsibility for the social, economic or environmental matters it describes in its statistics.
Access to ONS statistics in their final form is carefully managed within the department.
Once prepared for publication, ONS official statistics are marked ‘Official–Sensitive’ and placed in a controlled access information system.
Access to the statistics is limited to those who make the arrangements for the release and prepare statistical commentary and answers to questions on statistical matters.
These arrangements have been drawn up by the Director General for ONS, in consultation with the National Statistician, who is the person responsible for granting pre-release access to ONS statistics.
The Director General is the Head of Profession for Statistics and is responsible for the day-to-day implementation of these arrangements and acting on the decisions of the National Statistician.
1. The ONS operates under the general principle that pre-release access is exceptional and will be granted only on the merits of the particular case.
2. The opinions, decisions and conditions determining ONS pre-release access where it is granted are those of the National Statistician. They are made taking into account the advice of the Director General of ONS, to whom representations for pre-release access (whether they be representations for, or against, access) should be made. The Director General may consult with any person whose views he considers relevant. It is not expected that the National Statistician will receive representations for pre-release access to ONS official statistics from anyone other than the Director General.
3. The National Statistician’s decisions and conditions for pre-release access are founded solely upon the information presented in the Director General’s written submission to him.
Documentation and publication
4. In the interests of openness and transparency, ONS places on its website, simultaneously with the relevant statistical release, the job title and organisation of the eligible persons to whom pre-release access to those statistics has been granted.
Period of access
5. The period of pre-release access granted will be determined by the National Statistician on the advice of the Director General. The minimum period possible to achieve the purpose of the pre-release access will be granted.
6. In exceptional circumstances only, and in accordance with paragraph 5 of Part 1 of the Schedule to the 2008 Order, the National Statistician may grant pre-release access in excess of 24 hours. The reasons for more than 24 hours of access will be published simultaneously with the statistic in question, and the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority will be informed in advance of the publication of the statistic in question.
Conditions of access
7. The National Statistician will impose conditions on access according to the requirements of the 2008 Order, and will impose further conditions as necessary, having taken the advice of the Director General. These conditions will be in written form, and made as a binding agreement with the person to whom they relate.
8. Where the statistics in question are market-sensitive, each recipient must sign a declaration that will include such conditions, in writing.
9. Aside from the circumstances described above, the National Statistician, on the advice of the Director General, may also allow pre-release access to statistics to a limited number of persons in a limited number of special circumstances, sometimes for more than 24 hours. In each case, such access will be documented in the relevant release. The Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England may be given access to statistics relating to interest rates so that Committee members can exercise their remit effectively. Such access may be longer than 24 hours, but there is no requirement to inform the UK Statistics Authority in this case, or to publish the reasons. The access will, still be limited to the minimum period necessary.
10. Access may be given to the compilers of complementary reports due to be published at the same time as, or shortly after the statistics so that they can incorporate the latest available figures. Such access may also be longer than 24 hours
11. International organisations may gain access in order to compile supra-national statistics.
12. Journalists may be given access to complex or compendia releases to give them time to absorb and understand the significance of a given release. The usual period of access for this purpose will be less than one hour.
Breach of conditions of release
13. In the event that ONS becomes aware that a lapse in release practices for any of its official statistics has led to a breach of the principles and rules set out in the 2008 Order or of the practices described in this Statement, the Director General will notify the National Statistician by means of a written explanation using the Authority’s standard reporting form. The National Statistician, in consultation with the Head of Assessment, will decide the action necessary to prevent a recurrence and produce the Authority's response to the breach.
Sanctions against non-compliance
14. The National Statistician will by default permanently withdraw pre-release access from any person judged to have breached the conditions of their access. The National Statistician will consider any mitigating circumstances and may alter the sanction accordingly.
Annex A: ONS market-sensitive outputs
Balance of Payments
Consumer/Retail Prices Indices
Gross Domestic Product **
Index of Production
Index of Services
Labour Market Statistics ***
Producer Price Indices
Public Sector Finances
Retail Sales Index
UK Trade (including UK Trade in Goods)
* Output releases but not New Orders
** includes M1/preliminary; M2/output, income and expenditure; and M3/quarterly national accounts releases
*** includes Average Weekly Earnings, etc