The Statistics and Registration Service Act received Royal Assent on 26 July 2007 and came into force on 1 April 2008. A link to an electronic copy of the Act along with its Explanatory Note is available from the National Archives.
The Act is mainly concerned with the structure of the organisations that delivers statistics and registration services. It extends to the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and creates an independent Statistics Authority, as a non-ministerial department accountable to Parliament, whose objective is to promote and safeguard:
the production and publication of official statistics that serve the public good, and
the quality, good practice and comprehensiveness of official statistics.
Main function of the UK Statistics Authority
Monitoring and reporting on all official statistics
The Authority is required to monitor, and may report on, all official statistics (wherever produced), whether or not they are 'National Statistics'.
Independent assessment of key statistics
The Authority is required to prepare and publish a Code of Practice, against which it will be required to independently assess the quality and integrity of key statistics (both produced in the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and across government departments) for formal designation as 'National Statistics'.
Oversight of ONS
The Authority provides the top level of governance for ONS, replacing HM Treasury Ministers' oversight role. Consequently, the Authority has a statutory power to produce and publish statistics.
Key posts established by the legislation
The Authority Board's membership
The Chair, at least five other non-executive members (some appointed after consultation with the devolved administrations), the National Statistician and two other executive members.
The National Statistician
A full member of the Board responsible for the work of the current ONS, reporting to the Authority Board (not Ministers), and is the Authority's chief professional statistical adviser and Chief Executive.
The Head of Assessment
The Authority's principal adviser on assessment.
Other issues covered by the Act
Pre-release access arrangements
Details of pre-release arrangements are set out in secondary legislation. The Authority assesses compliance with the rules and principles set out in this legislation as part of its assessment of official statistics against the Code of Practice.
The Act states that information relating to, or identifying, a particular person or business held or disclosed by the Authority is confidential. It should not be disclosed by anyone and any unlawful disclosure is a criminal offence punishable by a fine or imprisonment.
The Act contains powers to allow information sharing between public authorities and the Authority where this is for statistical purposes only. All proposals to allow such sharing must first be agreed by Ministers before becoming draft secondary legislation and then subject to further scrutiny and approval by Parliament. In addition, the Act ensured that a number of previous data flows can continue.
The civil registration functions previously undertaken by ONS (given the National Statistician's role as Registrar General for England and Wales) are not part of the responsibilities of the Authority.
Employment status of staff
The Act states that all employees of the Authority are civil servants.
Relationship to UK Parliament and devolved legislatures
The Authority’s work is overseen by the Public Administration Select Committee in the UK Parliament to whom it formally reports. Similar arrangements are in place for the Authority to report to the devolved legislatures.
The Cabinet Office has taken over HM Treasury's past responsibilities in those circumstances where the Authority, for example, wishes to introduce secondary legislation and is required to answer Parliamentary Questions.
Other parts of ONS not covered by the new Act
The General Register Office (GRO) and the National Health Service Central Register (NHSCR), which were previously based in ONS, have functions that are distinct from those of the Authority. Ministers decided therefore that the NHSCR would transfer to the NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care (IC) and the GRO would transfer to the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) which is an Executive Agency of the Home Office.