War saw a significant increase in statistical activity.
In preparation for the Second World War, a Central Economic Intelligence Service was set up to help individual government departments prepare. Later, in 1941, in the very middle of the war, The Central Statistical Office (CSO) was created to coordinate and analyse economic and financial statistics provided by various departments and provide data on the economic situation in the country as a whole.
Winston Churchill, in particular, championed the importance of statistics and their value in helping strengthen the war effort. He went to the extent of bringing his own statistical section with him to the Prime Minister's office.
His statisticians managed to prove, for example, that Germany did not have the large number of bombers claimed by the Air Ministry and helped improve the accuracy of British night bombing after showing that originally only a third of bombs were landing within five miles of their target.
But Churchill also recognised the potential problems of too many departments providing their own statistics without a single frame of reference and instructed that the CSO should be set up to oversee the statistics produced by these departments.
Originally created as part of the war effort, the CSO continued when the need for a solid system of national accounts to help manage the economy was recognised. Although it introduced many statistical developments, the greatest change came nearly 50 years after its creation.
In 1989 the organisation increased almost five-fold in size to 1,000 staff when it was merged with the Business Statistics Office (BSO). The BSO, set up 20 years earlier, collected most of the Government's statistics on businesses.
The merger established the CSO as the principal source of economic statistics for England and Wales with data ranging from the Retail Prices Index to figures on commercial production and capital investment.